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Re: Consensus: was Re: [Synoptic-L] The Cryptic Message of the Gospel of Mark

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic In Response To: Tony Buglass On: Objectivity From: Bruce TONY: I also agree that total objectivity is not possible, that it is demonstrable that
    Message 1 of 13 , Jul 18 2:38 PM
      To: Synoptic
      In Response To: Tony Buglass
      On: Objectivity
      From: Bruce

      TONY: I also agree that total objectivity is not possible, that it is
      demonstrable that we are all affected by our presuppositions.

      BRUCE: Something this is almost a mandatory Pledge of Allegiance these days,
      in all fields including the Synoptic. This very afternoon, the author of a
      book in the International Relations field took issue with me (by name, in
      her preface) over just this point. People seem to feel importantly about it.

      The key word, in my view, is "affected." If we are helplessly affected, then
      our opinions are not our own, they are the joint creation of the Zeitgeist
      and our personal endocrine system. In that case, anything in the nature of
      historical research (as usually conceived) is simply impossible. If on the
      other hand we are affected but not HELPLESSLY affected, then to some degree
      we can compensate for, ignore, or methodologically protect ourselves from,
      those tendencies.

      I would hold, with traditional historians in general, that standard
      methodology is precisely a cure for personal bias or Zeitgeist pressures.
      That is why it exists. The cure doesn't always take (just as aspirin doesn't
      cure all headaches), and when it does, people are more or less successful or
      susceptible in employing it. To that degree, I would say, they are more or
      less successful historians (of anything, including Early Christianity). But
      the fact that talents and susceptibilities differ here as elsewhere is not
      the same as saying that nothing is possible. I can't myself play the Liszt
      Gnomenreigen, but I know people who can, and I have seen them do it.

      It seems to me that history and its subdivisions also work in this way, and
      that, to some degree (and to greater degree as we are more successful in
      dealing with our own Sitz im Leben), history is therefore possible.

      No?

      (Of course it's also an argument, of sorts, that the people who assert some
      variant of the "helplessly affected" position will then go on, sometimes in
      the very next paragraph, to do history according to their lights. The
      "affect" stricture doesn't seem to inhibit them, rather, it seems to apply,
      if at all, only to others. I prefer to deal with the issue in direct terms,
      as above, but there is also this rhetorical dimension).

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    • Tim Lewis
      I m not sure I understand what exactly is being argued by John Lupia and the implications for the Synoptic Problem. John, Are you implying that a scholar who
      Message 2 of 13 , Jul 18 9:50 PM
        I'm not sure I understand what exactly is being argued by John Lupia and the implications for the Synoptic Problem.

        John,
        Are you implying that a scholar who today concludes by his/her own research that Mk was a source of Mt and/or Lk, simply shares/assumes older theological agendas? Surely similar conclusions do not necessarily mean similar agendas. Perhaps me being in Australia means I cannot appreciate the supposed still alive "agenda" of "debunking Catholicism". I don't see how we can determine which scholars conclusions are or are not driven by such an agenda unless on a case by case example. Otherwise it sounds like a general accusation. Since none of us can attain objectivity we rely on well articulated perspectives and each of us must search out our own agendas and try to get better at acknowledging them. Perhaps holding an anti-consensus view might be part of one's particular agenda? Your points against the validity of scholarly consensus are interesting when juxtaposed with Farmer's comment on majority opinions in Rethinking the Synoptic Problem, 2001 ("On this side of the Atlantic, however, the majority of scholars publishing research on the Synoptic problem are proponents of the two-Gospel hypothesis") where appealing to any consensus might be now counted against him! Perhaps appealing to consensus is actually an argument of the weakest sort, used by those in a weak position? What then are the stronger arguments? (That we *might* agree on!).

        I have doubts that theological agendas can be so easily held responsible. Surely the background of today's scholars and their agendas are more complex. I think we need to work on one example at a time. I don't see how conclusions that aren't necessarily supportive of a particular theology are charged with an anti-Catholic theology. I think different scholars hold to Markan priority for differing reasons. My own reasons will not be identical to others.
        Tim Lewis
        -- -- -- --
        Timothy M. Lewis
        Cranbourne, VIC 3977
        Part-time Greek Tutor at Whitley College,
        Melbourne College of Divinity, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

        ----- Original Message -----
        From: John Lupia
        To: Tony Buglass ; Synoptic@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Tuesday, July 19, 2005 3:33 AM
        Subject: Re: Consensus: was Re: [Synoptic-L] The Cryptic Message of the Gospel of Mark


        Tony, you raise seven important questions: (1) is the
        hidden agenda of 19th century Protestant biblical
        scholars still alive and viable in contemporary
        biblical studies? (2) Does Matthean priority
        necessarily convey a Catholic apologetic since some
        Protestant biblical scholars also advocate it? (3) Is
        the Markan priority theory isolated to Protestant
        scholars today or is it shared also by Catholics as
        well demonstrating conservative versus liberal
        scholarship? (4) Is textual criticism a
        pseudo-science? (5) Who was actually professing that
        John is second century? (6) Who is actually
        responsible for new discoveries of papyri? (7) What is
        the value of patristic statements regarding the order
        of the production of the Gospels?

        It will take much effort to answer all of these in a
        single email. I will attempt to answer them briefly.
        Further discussion will necessarily follow.


        FIRST QUESTION

        Is the hidden agenda of 19th century Protestant
        biblical scholars still alive and viable in
        contemporary biblical studies?

        This question is based on Tony's reply:
        I don't know how far I'd be prepared to entertain it -
        after a while, one does become sated with conspiracy
        theories (which is why I didn't read the D Vinci
        Code...). In any case, while a 19th C scenario might
        justify such agenda, I'm not really persuaded that a
        modern international academic dialogue can be driven
        in that way.
        For my part, I find it difficult to accept that
        virtually the whole of the vast literature of biblical
        commentary and criticism is based upon a lie, or at
        best a methodological error. Or have I overstated
        your case?


        The evidence for the claim is found in the texts of
        contemporary authors. Has biblical scholarship
        including the Synoptic Problem become a platform for a
        Protestant agenda to debunk Catholicism? It would be
        impossible to argue against this idea since nearly
        every book on the subject contains the hidden agenda I
        have pointed out, negative readings of Mark, factions
        within the apostolic church resulting in different
        disparate church communities with different disparate
        teachings, no papacy, no central church hierarchy, no
        Eucharist until much later, no sacraments, or if a
        concession is made about some none is given for there
        being seven, Jesus founded no church, the apostles may
        have founded separate disparate communities but
        certainly not in union with one another, Roman Church
        authority is much later, many verses of scripture are
        much later additions by a corrupt Roman Church, and
        every other sort of negative propaganda to undermine
        the Catholic faith, all done in the name of "honest"
        and "objective" scholarship attempting to be as
        scientific as possible.

        SECOND QUESTION

        Does Matthean priority necessarily convey a Catholic
        apologetic since some Protestant biblical scholars
        also advocate it?

        This question is based on Tony's reply:
        I confess to not knowing of hand of any scholars
        arguing for Matthean priority, but I'd be willing to
        bet there are Protestants as well as Catholics on the
        list.

        I do not think that Matthean priority is driven by the
        agenda of the Markan prioritist's camp.

        THIRD QUESTION

        Is the Markan priority theory isolated to Protestant
        scholars today or is it shared also by Catholics as
        well demonstrating conservative versus liberal
        scholarship?

        This question is based on Tony's reply:
        Further, the issue of Markan versus Matthean priority
        is not itself coterminous with Protestant - Catholic
        scholarship, is it?
        On the other hand, I think I'm right in saying that
        Catholic scholars such as Raymond Brown and John Meier
        argue for Markan priority. And have the imprimatur to
        do so. Is the underlying agenda one of conservative
        versus liberal scholarship, rather than Catholic
        versus Protestant or even faith versus unbelief?


        It is indeed a conservative v. liberal issue within
        Catholic biblical studies. This does not negate the
        origins of the movement in the 18th century, as you
        admit, as driven to debunk Catholicism.


        FOURTH QUESTION

        Is textual criticism a pseudo-science?

        This question is based on Tony's reply:
        However, I think there is more value in the techniques
        of textual and linguistic criticism than implied by
        the use of terms such as "pseudo-science".

        Pseudo-science is any theory, methodology, or practice
        that is considered to be without scientific foundation
        lacking empirical evidence and which fails to comply
        with scientific method. The aim of textual criticism
        is to discover the original text. Can this be
        scientifically accomplished? However, the bulk of what
        textual critics actually do is to study the existing
        texts and compare them with the hope of placing the
        variety of texts into a genealogy. This is textual
        criticism at its best and soundest method. Text
        criticism does enter the forum of a pseudo-science
        when it makes dogmatic conclusions which verses are
        not original, i.e., which verses are to be excluded
        from our consideration as being part of the original
        text, and which verses are later editorial additions
        and/or emendations. When text critics pontificate that
        it is a "fact" that their conclusions regarding
        certain verses of scripture are not original or later
        editorial additions and/or emendations they are
        stating "pseudo-facts" not "hard facts" and enter the
        forum of pseudo-science.

        FIFTH QUESTION

        Who was actually professing that John is second
        century?

        This question is based on Tony's reply:
        There are "hard facts" (given that 'facts' are always
        to an extent mixed up with interpretation). For
        example, it was argued for some time that John's
        Gospel was a late 2nd C fake, but that was effectively
        falsified by the discovery of the Rylands papyrus.


        No Catholic scholar, to the best of my knowledge, has
        ever thought this or published such an outrageous
        claim.


        SIXTH QUESTION

        Who is actually responsible for new discoveries of
        papyri?

        This question is based on Tony's reply:
        There are "hard facts" (given that 'facts' are always
        to an extent mixed up with interpretation). For
        example, it was argued for some time that John's
        Gospel was a late 2nd C fake, but that was effectively
        falsified by the discovery of the Rylands papyrus. Is
        this pseudo-science?


        You are confusing the discoveries made by
        archaeologists and others as the work of texts
        critics.


        SEVENTH QUESTION

        What is the value of patristic statements regarding
        the order of the production of the Gospels?

        This question is based on Tony's reply:
        What about the testimony of the Fathers, such as
        Clement, to the effect that John wrote his gospel last
        of all? Again, given that there are issues of
        interpretation and history involved in evaluating
        patristic texts, this is evidence of a more or less
        firm nature, isn't it?

        It is only historical evidence that attests to what an
        author thought at a given period of time, in this case
        the early 3rd century. Clement does not say second
        century does he? He also does not even suggest it.
        Rather he appears to place the Gospel of John during
        Peter's pontificate immediately after Mark's Gospel
        circulated and characterizes Peter's reaction as
        neutral "he neither directly forbade nor encouraged
        it" being circulated. Now what does this tell us about
        Clement of Alexandria's views about the Gospels being
        written in relationship to the Church and its central
        authority the Pope? It tells us that Clement has no
        understanding how the Gospel's came to be written
        outside of Papias since he is paraphrasing him, and
        based on that text the Pope and Catholic hierarchy had
        nothing to do with the commissioning the compositions
        of the Gospels but rather the evangelists took it on
        themselves to write them down. So it is clear to me
        that by the second century and later no Catholic
        Father knew the origin of the Gospels or their order
        of production but were persuaded and influenced by
        Papias' testimony. So the whole force of the Patristic
        testimony on this subject rests on the veracity of
        Papias, whom I am convinced was a heretic bishop and
        the first supporter of the Montanist heresy


        Best regards,
        John N. Lupia, III

        John N. Lupia, III
        Beachwood, New Jersey 08722 USA
        Fax: (732) 349-3910
        http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Roman-Catholic-News/
        God Bless America



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      • Tony Buglass
        John replied to a series of questions he identified in my previous post: Re the hidden agenda of scholarship Has biblical scholarship including the Synoptic
        Message 3 of 13 , Jul 19 2:21 AM
          John replied to a series of questions he identified in my previous post:

          Re the hidden agenda of scholarship
          "Has biblical scholarship
          including the Synoptic Problem become a platform for a
          Protestant agenda to debunk Catholicism? It would be
          impossible to argue against this idea since nearly
          every book on the subject contains the hidden agenda I
          have pointed out, negative readings of Mark, factions
          within the apostolic church resulting in different
          disparate church communities with different disparate
          teachings, no papacy, no central church hierarchy, no
          Eucharist until much later, no sacraments, or if a
          concession is made about some none is given for there
          being seven, Jesus founded no church, the apostles may
          have founded separate disparate communities but
          certainly not in union with one another, Roman Church
          authority is much later, many verses of scripture are
          much later additions by a corrupt Roman Church, and
          every other sort of negative propaganda to undermine
          the Catholic faith, all done in the name of "honest"
          and "objective" scholarship attempting to be as
          scientific as possible."

          Tony:
          The question as far as I'm concerned is not whether it is anti-Catholic or anti-Roman, but whether it is true according to the best historical and theological methodology. I am not convinced that there is such a hidden agenda in modern scholarship (whatever may or may not have been the case 150 years ago - we have moved on, I think).

          John:
          I do not think that Matthean priority is driven by the
          agenda of the Markan prioritist's camp.

          Tony:
          Again, I don't think it has to do with an agenda so much as a question of evidence - which text appears to have known and used the other?

          John:
          It is indeed a conservative v. liberal issue within
          Catholic biblical studies. This does not negate the
          origins of the movement in the 18th century, as you
          admit, as driven to debunk Catholicism.

          Tony:
          I think I suggested it wasn't just about debunking Catholicism, but debunking orthodoxy in general. However, my main point is that whatever the alleged agenda or motivation of the people who first raised a question, if the question itself is valid the origins may be irrelevant to the later discussion.

          John:
          Pseudo-science is any theory, methodology, or practice
          that is considered to be without scientific foundation
          lacking empirical evidence and which fails to comply
          with scientific method.

          Which scientific method? The method which is used by chemistry and physics is not the same as the method which is used by geologists or evolutionary biologists - it would much too long to conduct an experiment to verify or falsify the hypothesis. So while it may be true that the method of eg text-critics may be less empirical than that of a chemist, it does not necessarily reduce the technique to "pseudo-science". There are indeed hard facts, which may allow firm evaluation to take place. For example, GThomas contains a version of the parable of the wicked husbandmen (Thom.65:1-7, cf Mk.12:1-12; Mt.21:33-39; Lk.20:9-15a). The canonical version has certain allegorical features which ae lacking in the Thomas version. Most commentators I have read believe that allegory is a later step of development in a parable tradition, and therefore the version of the saying in Thomas (regardless of the possible relative dates of authorship of the texts) represents an earlier form of the tradition. Now, my point here is not particularly to make a specific claim about that saying or indeed the texts to which they belong, but to demonstrate that they are hard facts, and open to proper analysis. To attack that analysis as pseudo-science begins to sound like special pleading, unless you have a proper methodological criticism to bring and a resultant better methodology.

          John:
          No Catholic scholar, to the best of my knowledge, has
          ever thought this or published such an outrageous
          claim (ie that GJohn was a late 2nd C fake).

          Tony:
          Probably not. Without digging into my commentaries to rediscover what I read a long time ago, I think it was originally Wellhausen, but I'm open to correction on that. As I remember, the agenda was less to do with a wish to debunk Catholic authority, but to examine the texts of the NT with the same critical tools as were already being used on other ancient texts. His conclusions were that the theology and style of the fourth gospel were so different ffrom the synoptics, and so much more developed, that it couldn't conceivably be 1st C or apostolic. As I remember (and it is a vague memory, I admit) he drew closer comparisons with 2nd C writings. If there is a (not so hidden) agenda, it was to treat the biblical manuscripts as historical artifacts in their own right, rather than as sacred texts which were somehow beyond historical study. If that was anti-Catholic, I suggest it was just as anti-Protestant.

          John:
          You are confusing the discoveries made by
          archaeologists and others as the work of texts
          critics.

          Tony:
          Well, I'm not an archaeologist, and I'm not a text critic. Primarily, I'm a preacher, and because I want to preach truth, I'm committed to using the best expertise I can lay my hands on to understand the texts from which I preach. In this instance, I rely on historians, archaologists and text critics to provide me with the best focus on historical data.

          John:
          ...it is clear to me
          that by the second century and later no Catholic
          Father knew the origin of the Gospels or their order
          of production but were persuaded and influenced by
          Papias' testimony. So the whole force of the Patristic
          testimony on this subject rests on the veracity of
          Papias, whom I am convinced was a heretic bishop and
          the first supporter of the Montanist heresy

          Tony:
          Well, he was certainly millenarian, but that wasn't heretical, was it? And if we get into a discussion of Montanism, we'll be drifting seriously off-topic for this list. But even if he had Montanist sympathies, that doesn't make him unreliable or necessarily wrong, does it? This sounds dangerously like the sort of character assassination which has been used by establishments over the centuries when they wish to discredit opponents but not engage in the arguments (and I think a discussion of Montanism would illustrate that, as would a discussion of the response of British Wesleyan Methodist authorities to the introduction of the camp meetings and consequent beginnings o Primitive Methodism, but like I said - off-topic!).

          We could continue to argue this one at length, I'm sure. I think for the moment, I simply want to make the point that the issue should be debated for its own sake, and according to a proper technical understanding of the issues and facts. I am unhappy about what sounds to me like special pleading, and especially unhappy at claims that proper critical method is no more than a front for anti-Catholic propaganda. It reminds me of an argument between Latin American liberation theologians and European theologians in the late 1970s, when the liberationists felt the Europeans were not willing to accept their presuppositions, and warned that "incommunication was about to occur". I'd echo here with regard to biblical criticism what Bruce has just argued about historical study in general - surely it is possible to do it with proper method and integrity.

          Cheers,
          Rev Tony Buglass
          Superintendent Minister
          Upper Calder Methodist Circuit








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        • John Lupia
          ... Dear Tony: Thanks for your reply. I am not available right now to respond properly to this entire post and that of others since I am deep in the middle of
          Message 4 of 13 , Jul 19 9:04 AM
            --- Tony Buglass <TonyBuglass@...> wrote:

            >
            > Tony:
            > The question as far as I'm concerned is not whether
            > it is anti-Catholic or anti-Roman, but whether it is
            > true according to the best historical and
            > theological methodology. I am not convinced that
            > there is such a hidden agenda in modern scholarship
            > (whatever may or may not have been the case 150
            > years ago - we have moved on, I think).

            Dear Tony:

            Thanks for your reply. I am not available right now to
            respond properly to this entire post and that of
            others since I am deep in the middle of a project. I
            apologize for having to delay this dialogue but will
            respond as time allows.

            The key here is in what you say: "whether it is true
            according to the best historical and theological
            methodology." This, of course, goes without saying. If
            the radical conclusions drawn (what I call radical are
            the agenda components described as anti-Catholic
            polemic) were derived from the "best historical and
            theological methodology" I would not have voiced any
            complaint but would have to accept those conclusions
            as "factual" and rethink the validity of Catholicism
            as it claims to be founded by Christ, appointed his
            vicar, the pope, that he instituted the Eucharist
            which the Church has keep active in liturgy for 2
            millennia, and so on. The criticism is that they are
            not the best historical or theological methods but
            faulty, and seriously flawed at that. Present any
            example or what you consider the best example on this
            issue and we can discuss it. What do these claims on
            these subjects really have to do with literary
            dependence from one author to another? Nothing. Yet
            they are introduced and made to look as if they are
            the crux of the argument and each conclusion is
            baseless with seriously flawed logic and methodology.
            So it becomes clear that there must be some other
            motive why these issues are introduced to begin with
            and given as if critical to prove literary dependency,
            where they emerge as sounding boards or platforms for
            some other hidden agenda.

            Sorrry, this is all I have time for for now. Meanwhile
            find your best example that does introduce arguments
            and conclusions that (consciously or unconsciously)
            wind up being so-called evidence that proves
            Catholicism is a sham, all in good intended purposes,
            of course, to arrive at the truth using the "best" of
            science.

            Thank you for your sincerity and openess to have such
            a dialogue.

            Best regards,
            John N. Lupia, III

            John N. Lupia, III
            Beachwood, New Jersey 08722 USA
            Fax: (732) 349-3910
            http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Roman-Catholic-News/
            God Bless America



            ____________________________________________________
            Start your day with Yahoo! - make it your home page
            http://www.yahoo.com/r/hs
          • E Bruce Brooks
            To: Synoptic In Response To: Tony Buglass On: Methodology From: Bruce I don t mean to seem to pick at Tony, whose moderate statement of recent issues seems to
            Message 5 of 13 , Jul 19 7:33 PM
              To: Synoptic
              In Response To: Tony Buglass
              On: Methodology
              From: Bruce

              I don't mean to seem to pick at Tony, whose moderate statement of recent
              issues seems to me to be well considered and helpful to the conversation. I
              am grateful for that contribution. But at the same time, I couldn't help
              noticing this one sentence:

              TONY: The question as far as I'm concerned is not whether it is
              anti-Catholic or anti-Roman, but whether it is true according to the best
              historical and theological methodology.

              BRUCE: Tilt. Theological methodology? What exactly does that add to
              historical methodology, in investigating a question of history, whether it
              be the Roman spice trade with India, or the doctrinal disputes in the early
              Christian church?

              If I were running an NT list (which at present I am not), my worst nightmare
              would be that Dean Burgon would ask to join. A vastly learned man, familiar
              with the Synoptics, on what grounds could you refuse him? On the other hand,
              once in the conversation, he would be likely to insist (and if he did, what
              decent and civil person would be prepared to face him down, on an idea so
              obviously important to him) that God must have prevented His Word from being
              mutilated in transmission, so that the idea of text corruption in the
              mainstream is simply unacceptable. As members of the tax-exempt Dean Burgon
              Society will probably tell you if you ask them, this means that the Textus
              Receptus must remain inviolable under scholarly scrutiny; in effect, that
              scholarly scrutiny is inappropriate in the first place, and must give way to
              personal reverence. It is the Burgonites (as I understand the current
              lineups) who at this very minute are reviling Lachmann, not because his
              methodology was faulty, or wrongly applied to the data, but on the ultimate
              primary ground that he was not a true believer in the religion of Jesus. All
              this strikes me as the sort of deadlock any analytical attempt is likely to
              get into, if "theological methodology" is allowed in among the assumptions.

              So thinking, I would be inclined to say that theological methodology not
              only cannot validly assist historical methodology, but that historical
              methodology, or any other objective methodology, cannot even be followed out
              to its end, in the presence of theological considerations. Eppur si muove.

              But as a follower of Confucius, I am always ready to be shown to be wrong. I
              thus ask Tony or anyone who understands his meaning here: Is there a sense
              in which "theological methodology" can validly and supportively aid a
              historical enterprise? How, for example, would it lighten the conceptual
              labors of those studying (from amphoras recovered by marine archaelogy off
              the coast of India) the Roman spice trade?

              If it can do such things, that will be good news for all the non-NT fields,
              and nobody will be gladder than myself to carry that good news to my
              colleagues, the underwater archaeologists, one of whom I am lunching with
              next week, and all of whom need all the help they can get, conceptual or
              otherwise.

              Bruce

              E Bruce Brooks
              Warring States Project
              University of Massachusetts at Amherst
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