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Galilean method. Was Re: Jesus as a thr

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  • Neil Godfrey
    ... ..............[passing comment in lengthy post] I wonder to what extent historians of Christianity find themselves bogged down from trying to explain too
    Message 1 of 19 , Jul 27 6:45 PM
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      ----------
      >From: Mahlon H. Smith

      >The point of my programmic question was not to express bewilderment but
      >to indicate the range of factors that need to be taken into account in
      >explaining Christian origins. The traditional explanations may account
      >for some but not all of these factors.
      ..............[passing comment in lengthy post]


      I wonder to what extent historians of Christianity find themselves bogged
      down from trying to explain too much at once.

      I am reminded of Chomsky's discussion of "the Galilean style" of enquiry in
      the physical sciences. ("Rules and Representations" 1980). Galileo only
      initiated progress in physics when he said 'stuff it' to phenomena left
      hanging by his enquiry into principles of mechanical motion. He couldn't
      explain the obvious question about why a moving earth didn't fling things
      into space, but the answer to that question could only come after it was
      first ignored in order to establish a more secure foundation on one small
      point.

      Even the term "explaining Christian origins" has so many meanings as to be
      meaningless except at the most superficial level -- like "explaining the
      orbits of the planets" before one has come to understand the basics of
      mechanical motion.

      Debating all the possibilities and what if's about any one of the gospels,
      for example, is important enough, but how much potential does such a
      microcosmic starting point have for furthering understanding of the 'big
      question' of Christian origins?

      To what extent, for the sake of formulating a base theory, can we/should we
      step outside all the complexities of known realities and minutiae of human
      nature and theorize about people and documents as simplified abstractions?

      My impression is that most "theories" of Christian origins are rooted in
      faith-assumptions about this or that particular content of select documents.
      Is not this a bit like believing Aristotle's model of the universe because
      it seemed the most comfortable way to understand commonly taken-for-granted
      observations?

      Sounds weird, but can there be more potential in starting at a point where
      many basic observations are initially set aside? Can historians learn
      anything from the methods of certain pioneers in physics, economics and
      linguistics?


      Neil Godfrey

      Toowoomba, Qld.
      Australia
      godfrey@...
    • Mahlon H. Smith
      ... In a word, Neil: many. Speaking as one who has the temerity to describe himself as a historian of Christian origins, I can testify that the task of
      Message 2 of 19 , Jul 29 10:58 AM
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        I wrote:
        >
        > >The point of my programmic question was not to express bewilderment but
        > >to indicate the range of factors that need to be taken into account in
        > >explaining Christian origins. The traditional explanations may account
        > >for some but not all of these factors.

        Neil Godfrey mused:

        >
        > I wonder to what extent historians of Christianity find themselves bogged
        > down from trying to explain too much at once.


        In a word, Neil: many. Speaking as one who has the temerity to describe
        himself as a historian of Christian origins, I can testify that the task
        of reassembling the master puzzle with all available data in proper
        place in relationship to each other is truly intimidating, largely
        because so many connecting pieces are now missing & the remainder can,
        like an anagram, be reassembled in many ways. It is far easier to
        analyze single texts than to grasp the inherent logic that generated the
        complex. So there is a strong temptation to take for granted inherited
        configurations without testing whether they fit coherently into the
        larger scheme of things. It takes time to be able to discern which
        traditional historical links to accept, which to challenge, & which to
        ignore. It is far easier to make minor adjustments in an inherited
        explanation than to construct a coherent picture from fresh examination
        of primary data. That's why there are so few really reliable original
        overviews of Christian origins & why it takes historians dedicated to
        that task most of their lives to produce a single book. (At least that's
        the explanation for my few publications that I give to my Department
        Chair: quality not quantity!)
        >
        > I am reminded of Chomsky's discussion of "the Galilean style" of enquiry in
        > the physical sciences. ("Rules and Representations" 1980). Galileo only
        > initiated progress in physics when he said 'stuff it' to phenomena left
        > hanging by his enquiry into principles of mechanical motion. He couldn't
        > explain the obvious question about why a moving earth didn't fling things
        > into space, but the answer to that question could only come after it was
        > first ignored in order to establish a more secure foundation on one small
        > point.

        Permit me to interject the dediction of 5G, which you probably noticed
        but others may not have:

        "This report is dedicated to Galileo Galilei who altered our view of the
        heavens forever, Thomas Jefferson who took scissors and paste to the
        gospels, David Friedrich Strauss who pioneered the quest of the
        historical Jesus." (Five Gospels, p. v).

        Galileo has been a real patron saint to most of the Fellows of the JS at
        least in three ways: (a) as prototype of one who based theory on
        objective observation of the behavior of primary phenomena rather than
        limit observation to fit traditional dogma; (b) as pioneer in tracing
        more probable connections between nodes of observed data than the
        patterns most people had taken for granted; & (c) as model of courage in
        publishing his research despite public furor & ecclesiastical
        opposition. Fortunately for us Fellows of the JS, we now live in a
        decentralized universe where enough humans have come to tolerate
        challenges to traditional views & relativize institutional authority
        that it is unlikely that any of us (even RC scholars) are, like Galileo,
        going to be silenced or forced to recant.

        Back to Neil:

        > Even the term "explaining Christian origins" has so many meanings as to be
        > meaningless except at the most superficial level -- like "explaining the
        > orbits of the planets" before one has come to understand the basics of
        > mechanical motion.

        Agreed. That's why JS methodology has from the first been based on "the
        basics of intellectual motion" (the "mechanics" of memory, oral
        transmission, interpretation & redaction) rather than on any single
        theory plotting gospel orbits. That is why Fellows who were convinced of
        the primacy of either Mark or Q or Thomas could reach some "consensus"
        regarding what primary data had to be accounted for by any theory, and
        why synoptic specialists who tended to discount GJohn could accept
        arguments by scholars like Fortna & myself for the historicity of some
        info in the Signs stratum of Johannine tradition.

        >
        > Debating all the possibilities and what if's about any one of the gospels,
        > for example, is important enough, but how much potential does such a
        > microcosmic starting point have for furthering understanding of the 'big
        > question' of Christian origins?

        After 13 years in the JS, I would have to say it has great potential,
        even though I would be the first to warn that the JS has not (yet) been
        able to formulate a comprehensive theory that answers that 'big
        question'. If any theory is to be accurate, it has to start with
        reliable data. And the reliability of data can only be confirmed if it
        undergoes scrutiny & withstands challenges & tests. The mechanics of
        motion had to be first confirmed on the microcosmic level before they
        could be used to plot the orbits of planets.

        As for the debates about the relationship of the gospels, I take it by
        "what if's" you mean hypotheses. In any scientific field a hypothesis
        has to be debated & tested against other hypotheses regarding its
        ability to explain the data. This can only be done on the microcosmic
        level. For any hypothesis can be made to sound plausible. The question
        is what best fits the facts in each case. Copernicus & Galileo succeeded
        in shifting the center of the universe primarily because their theories
        could account for observations that advocates of the traditional theory
        had chosen to ignore.

        If there is any analogy to the work of the JS in all of this, it is that
        we have tried to call attention to data in the Jesus tradition that can
        no longer be conveniently ignored by anyone claiming to represent HJ,
        just because it doesn't fit well into their theories.

        >
        > To what extent, for the sake of formulating a base theory, can we/should we
        > step outside all the complexities of known realities and minutiae of human
        > nature and theorize about people and documents as simplified abstractions?

        Obviously, this can & has been done. But as an intellectual historian I
        would argue that we shouldn't IF we claim that our theory is an adequate
        explanation of either people or documents. That is why one cannot
        explain the complexities of the trajectory that took Christianity from a
        Jewish culture into a gentile one on the basis of abstract theories of
        an apostolic mission & why one cannot resolve the synoptic problem
        simply by arguing in the abstract which gospel is more likely to have
        come first. To be adequate, any abstract theory has to account for as
        much of the complexities of the data as possible. Granted this is a
        great challenge, so that scientists have not yet been able to formulate
        any unifying theory of the cosmos that accounts for the data to
        everyone's satisfaction. My experience in debates among biblical
        scholars over the past 30 years convinces me that we are even further
        from any grand unifying theory of Christian origins that is going to
        convince every expert. But that does not mean that we should give up
        trying to formulate it.

        >
        > My impression is that most "theories" of Christian origins are rooted in
        > faith-assumptions about this or that particular content of select documents.

        That all depends on what you mean by "faith-assumption." One can always
        make a philosophical argument (ala Descartes, Pascal or Hume) that even
        to trust one's eyes or one's reasoning capacity is a faith assumption.
        It is relatively easy to show that all our "knowledge" of reality is
        based on fundamental faith assumptions. (How do I know that you really
        exist? Or that this message is going to be posted for anyone anywhere in
        the world to read?). It is usually a waste of time to try to prove
        assumptions that people seem to share IF there is no evidence that they
        might be wrong. So, granted, practically any theory can be shown to rest
        on "faith-assumptions."

        But faith-assumptions, like any hypothesis, are open to testing. So it
        can be demonstrated that the canonical gospel of Matthew was probably
        originally written in Greek rather than Hebrew as tradition maintained.
        It can also be demonstrated the the gospel of John was not composed
        merely to supplement information in the synoptics, etc. Since
        traditional explanations of the origins of Christian documents have
        proven to be inaccurate one is left with two choice: either construct an
        alternate theory or ignore the whole problem. Since some relationship of
        the content of the gospels is obvious, the issue boils down to the
        question of which theory can explain most of the similiarities &
        differences in the contents of the gospel texts most simply &
        consistently.

        Of course, some aspect of every hypothesis is going to have to appeal to
        elements for which we have no tangible evidence. But so must physicists.
        Personally, I find it easier to believe in the existence of Q than in
        quarks & black holes; which is why I remain puzzled by those who insist
        that Q is "only a hypothesis", inferring that it is mere speculation. I
        think we have far more evidence that the authors of Matt & Luke used a
        common sayings source than we have of particles of anti-matter that
        exist for nano-seconds. But some people find it easier to believe in
        "faith assumptions" coming from ecclesiastic authorities or physical
        scientists than those propounded by historical critics of biblical
        texts.

        > Is not this a bit like believing Aristotle's model of the universe because
        > it seemed the most comfortable way to understand commonly taken-for-granted
        > observations?

        In my humble opinion, that is what anyone who defends traditional models
        of Christian origins is doing, not those those who, like Galileo,
        challenge people to take seriously obsrvations that most people had not
        taken for granted.

        >
        > Sounds weird, but can there be more potential in starting at a point where
        > many basic observations are initially set aside?

        That is precisely what the JS attempted to do. We set aside the
        assumption that canonical texts are more reliable than those that were
        excluded from the ecclesiastical canon. We set aside the faith claims of
        all the gospel writers about who Jesus was or what his message was
        about. We set aside those aspects of the Jesus tradition that could be
        attributed to the influence of some other source. And we focused on
        observations about the remaining sayings & deeds that most people had
        not bothered to notice or take seriously. We did this precisely because
        we believed that there is more potential for getting an accurate
        understanding of Jesus by concentrating on data demonstrably traceable
        to him than on global faith assumptions.

        > Can historians learn
        > anything from the methods of certain pioneers in physics, economics and
        > linguistics?
        >
        I hope so. As a historian I was trained to pay attention to advances in
        the fields of cognate sciences. So were most biblical scholars & church
        historians. Whether a scholar is more influenced by these developments
        or the weight of traditional theories is an individual decision. I have
        always found that secular science has helped me to think clearer than
        traditional theology. So have most of my colleagues in the JS. Check the
        bibliographies of Crossan & Funk, etc. & you'll find the names of
        Chomsky & other social scientists. It would be an interesting exercise
        to compare the bibliographies of their critics to see who is more open
        to the objectivity of the Galilean method.

        Thanks for tolerating my ramblings.


        Shalom!


        Mahlon

        --

        *********************

        Mahlon H. Smith,
        Associate Professor
        Department of Religion
        Rutgers University
        New Brunswick NJ

        http://religion.rutgers.edu/mhsmith.html
      • Bob Schacht
        BTW, I ve been looking at the Book of Ruth lately; Now I know where the name Mahlon comes from! ... This sounds to me to be the same point that Kuhn was
        Message 3 of 19 , Jul 29 1:47 PM
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          BTW, I've been looking at the Book of Ruth lately; Now I know where the
          name "Mahlon" comes from!

          At 01:58 PM 7/29/98 -0400, Mahlon H. Smith wrote:
          >...
          Neil wrote:
          >> I am reminded of Chomsky's discussion of "the Galilean style" of enquiry in
          >> the physical sciences. ("Rules and Representations" 1980). Galileo only
          >> initiated progress in physics when he said 'stuff it' to phenomena left
          >> hanging by his enquiry into principles of mechanical motion. He couldn't
          >> explain the obvious question about why a moving earth didn't fling things
          >> into space, but the answer to that question could only come after it was
          >> first ignored in order to establish a more secure foundation on one small
          >> point.

          This sounds to me to be the same point that Kuhn was making about paradigm
          shifts.

          Mahlon wrote:

          >...Agreed. That's why JS methodology has from the first been based on "the
          >basics of intellectual motion" (the "mechanics" of memory, oral
          >transmission, interpretation & redaction) rather than on any single
          >theory plotting gospel orbits....

          And that is why I think it makes sense to spend time on methodology and
          epistemology now and then!

          >...
          >>
          >> My impression is that most "theories" of Christian origins are rooted in
          >> faith-assumptions about this or that particular content of select
          documents.
          >
          >That all depends on what you mean by "faith-assumption." One can always
          >make a philosophical argument (ala Descartes, Pascal or Hume) that even
          >to trust one's eyes or one's reasoning capacity is a faith assumption.
          >It is relatively easy to show that all our "knowledge" of reality is
          >based on fundamental faith assumptions. (How do I know that you really
          >exist? Or that this message is going to be posted for anyone anywhere in
          >the world to read?). It is usually a waste of time to try to prove
          >assumptions that people seem to share IF there is no evidence that they
          >might be wrong. So, granted, practically any theory can be shown to rest
          >on "faith-assumptions."
          >

          Well said!

          >But faith-assumptions, like any hypothesis, are open to testing.

          Here is where we differ. Faith assumptions are not, generally speaking,
          hypotheses at all, and most of them are not testable, except perhaps in a
          peculiarly subjective way. The kind of things you go on to discuss
          illustrate a variety of assumptions. I prefer to use the word "assumptions"
          in more or less the same way as they're used in Euclidean geometry, rather
          than in the perhaps more popular sense of "any unexamined postulate".
          Webster's dictionary-on-the-web defines an assumption as
          "2. The act of taking for granted, or supposing a thing without proof;
          supposition; unwarrantable claim."
          More interesting, there is the more formal definition as
          "4. (Logic) The minor or second proposition in a categorical syllogism."

          The minor or second proposition in a categorical syllogism is
          " ...the subject of the conclusion... It is the second proposition of a
          regular syllogism, as in the following:
          1. Every act of injustice partakes of meanness;
          2. to take money from another by gaming is an act of injustice; therefore,
          3. the taking of money from another by gaming partakes of meanness."

          In this syllogism, the second proposition is not readily tested; it is not
          really an hypothesis.

          >... But some people find it easier to believe in
          >"faith assumptions" coming from ecclesiastic authorities or physical
          >scientists than those propounded by historical critics of biblical
          >texts.
          >

          Ain't that the truth!

          >...

          Neil continued:

          >> Can historians learn
          >> anything from the methods of certain pioneers in physics, economics and
          >> linguistics?
          >>
          >I hope so. ...

          Me, too. But it usually takes a philosopher of science like Kuhn to explain
          to us how it works, what is at stake, and under what conditions the
          paradigm shift actually occurs.

          Thanks,
          Bob
          *******************************
          Robert M. Schacht
          Northern Arizona University

          Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.
          (Where charity and love are [found], God is there)
          9th century latin hymn
        • Jim West
          ... Yes, and it means sickness, weakness, feebleness ! But our Mahlon is none of those things, putting the lie to the ancient belief that names identify
          Message 4 of 19 , Jul 29 2:05 PM
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            At 01:47 PM 7/29/98 -0700, you wrote:
            >BTW, I've been looking at the Book of Ruth lately; Now I know where the
            >name "Mahlon" comes from!

            Yes, and it means "sickness, weakness, feebleness"! But our Mahlon is none
            of those things, putting the lie to the ancient belief that names identify
            personality.

            One more note on Ruth- the Targum specifies that Mahlon died because he
            married a Moabite woman!

            Best,
            (and sorry for the off topic note).

            Jim

            ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
            Jim West, ThD
            jwest@...
          • Mahlon H. Smith
            Thanks for the kind words, Bob. I m glad we can agree on basic scientific epistemology. I d just like to add a few clarifications of my reasoning behind the
            Message 5 of 19 , Jul 30 12:50 AM
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              Thanks for the kind words, Bob. I'm glad we can agree on basic
              scientific epistemology. I'd just like to add a few clarifications of my
              reasoning behind the sole point you took exception to:

              I wrote:
              >
              > >But faith-assumptions, like any hypothesis, are open to testing.

              Bob Schacht replied:
              >
              >
              > Here is where we differ. Faith assumptions are not, generally speaking,
              > hypotheses at all,

              I am speaking of faith in the sense of Pascal's wager or Kierkegaard's
              leap. In that sense, a faith assumption functions much the same as a
              working hypothesis, which my Random House dictionary defines thus:
              "a proposition or set of propositions set forth as an explanation for
              the occurrence of some specified group of phenomena, either asserted
              merely as a provisional conjecture to guide investigation (working
              hypothesis) or accepted as highly probable in the light of established
              facts."

              It seems to me that a "faith assumption" about the original contents of
              biblical texts (which as I recall is the sense in Neil G. introduced the
              term) qualifies as a hypothesis in either the provisional or highly
              probable sense. I should have qualified my statement to make it clear
              that this was the only sense in which I meant to claim that such
              assumptions can be tested. So I emend my thesis to read: "But
              faith-assumptions about texts, like any source hypothesis, are open to
              testing." Is that clearer?

              > and most of them are not testable, except perhaps in a
              > peculiarly subjective way.

              I would agree if you'd emend that thesis to read "experiential" rather
              than "subjective." Subjectivity implies a purely private perspective;
              whereas experiences can be shared (presuming one accepts the hypothesis
              that there is a reality beyond oneself that includes subjects analogous
              to oneself). Except for totally bizarre beliefs, I do not think that it
              is quite accurate to call most faith assumptions "subjective" in the
              sense of "personal or private opinions."

              > The kind of things you go on to discuss
              > illustrate a variety of assumptions. I prefer to use the word "assumptions"
              > in more or less the same way as they're used in Euclidean geometry, rather
              > than in the perhaps more popular sense of "any unexamined postulate".
              > Webster's dictionary-on-the-web defines an assumption as
              > "2. The act of taking for granted, or supposing a thing without proof;
              > supposition; unwarrantable claim."
              > More interesting, there is the more formal definition as
              > "4. (Logic) The minor or second proposition in a categorical syllogism."

              But I was using "assumption" in the less formal sense of definition 2a:
              "the act of taking for granted." Again, Random House gives the following
              as synonyms: "1. supposition, presupposition; 2. hypothesis."

              As for your lucid analysis of the technical use of an "assumption" in
              logic. I concur with everything you said. Logical assumptions are not
              testable because they are by definition a matter of definition. That's
              the trick in the Augustinian/Anselmian argument for the existence of
              God. You start by getting the skeptic to agree that the word "God" is
              defined as "the greater than which cannot exist." If that person then
              admits that anything exists at all you've trapped him into admitting
              that God exists.

              The only way to disprove a definition is to deny it. In your syllogism
              (which seems to have been influenced by Powerball fever), one could just
              as well maintain the contrary that taking money by gaming is *not* an
              act of injustice, which I suspect would be more in line with what those
              in the traffic jams in Connecticutt & Delaware, unfortunately, believe.
              The truth of the syllogistic minor in this case all depends on how one
              defines "injustice."

              To refocus this on Neil's argument, I would point out that the
              identification of non-Markan parallels in Matt & Luke as "Q material" is
              a matter of definition & thus is a logical proposition, not a
              faith-assumption or a hypothesis. The assertion that this material was
              derived from a written text that Matt & Luke had independent access to
              even though we don't is a literary source hypothesis that involves a
              faith assumption (that Luke did not copy this material from Matthew).
              The validity of such an assumption can be tested by weighing redactional
              alternatives. But such testing can never prove the existence of Q as a
              separate coherent text with syllogistic certainty.


              Shalom!


              Mahlon

              --

              *********************

              Mahlon H. Smith,
              Associate Professor
              Department of Religion
              Rutgers University
              New Brunswick NJ

              http://religion.rutgers.edu/mhsmith.html
            • James R. Covey
              ... Indeed. For instance, let s point something out here. The Jesus Seminar *has no methodology* in the sense that Mahlon implies. John Dominic Crossan, in
              Message 6 of 19 , Jul 30 2:00 AM
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                re missive of 29/07/98 08:46 PM signed -Bob Schacht- :

                >Mahlon wrote:
                >
                >>...Agreed. That's why JS methodology has from the first been based on "the
                >>basics of intellectual motion" (the "mechanics" of memory, oral
                >>transmission, interpretation & redaction) rather than on any single
                >>theory plotting gospel orbits....
                >
                >And that is why I think it makes sense to spend time on methodology and
                >epistemology now and then!

                Indeed. For instance, let's point something out here.

                The Jesus Seminar *has no methodology* in the sense
                that Mahlon implies.

                John Dominic Crossan, in _The Birth of Christianity_,
                demonstrates very effectively that criteria such as the
                Jesus Seminar's are simply that -- criteria. Without a
                consistent *method* for *applying* those criteria,
                there is no methodology per se.

                Crossan spells this out with reference to the "methodology"
                (criteria) of John Meier (_A Marginal Jew_), but it applies
                equally well to the Jesus Seminar.

                In fact, the Jesus Seminar *does* have a methodology, but
                in a much different sense. The way that they resolve their
                (often conflicting) criteria is by taking a vote.

                Essentially, their voting algorithm (+ a bunch of sometimes-
                contradictory criteria) *is* their methodology.

                James

                p.s. But what I really want to know about "Mahlon" is, how
                does one pronounce it? MAW-lun? MAY-lun? Muh-LAWN?

                -------------------------
                James R. Covey
                WWW Systems Developer
                Cochran Interactive Inc.
                http://www.cochran.com
                direct ph. # 902.422.8915
                office fax # 902.425.8659
                jrcovey@...
              • Mark Goodacre
                ... I am intrigued and a little puzzled by this statement. Is it not the case that the Jesus Seminar specifically announce their commitment to a single
                Message 7 of 19 , Jul 30 3:38 AM
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                  On 29 Jul 98 at 13:58, Mahlon H. Smith wrote:

                  > Agreed. That's why JS methodology has from the first been based on "the
                  > basics of intellectual motion" (the "mechanics" of memory, oral
                  > transmission, interpretation & redaction) rather than on any single
                  > theory plotting gospel orbits. That is why Fellows who were convinced of
                  > the primacy of either Mark or Q or Thomas could reach some "consensus"
                  > regarding what primary data had to be accounted for by any theory, and
                  > why synoptic specialists who tended to discount GJohn could accept
                  > arguments by scholars like Fortna & myself for the historicity of some
                  > info in the Signs stratum of Johannine tradition.

                  I am intrigued and a little puzzled by this statement. Is it not the case that
                  the Jesus Seminar specifically announce their commitment to a "single theory
                  plotting gospel orbits", viz. the 2ST? Granted that there are variations among
                  the fellows, and that some may have accepted the Johannine Signs Source etc.,
                  it seems nevertheless to be a very key part of the whole enterprise that (1) a
                  document called Q existed and (2) that it is one of our most (perhaps the most)
                  valuable source for reconstructing authentic logia. I do not see, in _The Five
                  Gospels_ at least, any signs at all of flexibility or openness to testing on
                  this point. It is a key assumption that undergirds the whole enterprise, is it
                  not?

                  > As for the debates about the relationship of the gospels, I take it by
                  > "what if's" you mean hypotheses. In any scientific field a hypothesis
                  > has to be debated & tested against other hypotheses regarding its
                  > ability to explain the data. This can only be done on the microcosmic
                  > level. For any hypothesis can be made to sound plausible. The question
                  > is what best fits the facts in each case. Copernicus & Galileo succeeded
                  > in shifting the center of the universe primarily because their theories
                  > could account for observations that advocates of the traditional theory
                  > had chosen to ignore.

                  In which case, where is the debating and testing of matters like the Q theory
                  and the complete independence of Thomas? Perhaps this happened at the sessions
                  but it has not, to my knowledge, made it into the publications. As Stephen
                  Carlson has pointed out before, the brief statement about Markan Priority in
                  _The Five Gospels_ is based on arguments of Streeter (1924) that many
                  (including Markan Priorists like me) see as partly discredited.

                  > Of course, some aspect of every hypothesis is going to have to appeal to
                  > elements for which we have no tangible evidence. But so must physicists.
                  > Personally, I find it easier to believe in the existence of Q than in
                  > quarks & black holes; which is why I remain puzzled by those who insist
                  > that Q is "only a hypothesis", inferring that it is mere speculation.

                  I agree that it is annoying to see simplistic and superficial arguments,
                  particularly annoying for people like me who spend much of their time
                  attempting to engage more intelligently with the widely-held belief in Q. But
                  if one reads Goulder, Sanders, Franklin and (I hope) me, I hope one will not
                  find arguments purely of the "it is only a hypothesis" kind.

                  Nevertheless, I think it is valuable to speak of the Q "theory" or the Q
                  "hypothesis". I am sure that other teachers on the list will be able to verify
                  that students often do not realise that Q is "only a hypothesis". This has
                  become all the more the case because of the language of the Q theorists of our
                  generation -- first Gospel, lost Gospel, the Gospel of Q, the Q Gospel, the
                  Sayings Gospel, Critical Text of Q, Q versification (Q 4.16, Q 7.1, etc.), etc.
                  The first chapter of my (prospective) _Case Against Q_ is called "First
                  Impressions" and is about the extent to which the culture in Gospel studies
                  tends to discourage the student from carefully considering the possibility of
                  the non-existence of Q.

                  > That is precisely what the JS attempted to do. We set aside the
                  > assumption that canonical texts are more reliable than those that were
                  > excluded from the ecclesiastical canon.

                  Should not a "necessarily" be added before "more reliable"? If added, I would
                  agree very strongly with this statement as an important working principle for
                  Jesus scholars. Indeed, it is a shame that we have to rehearse the question of
                  canonical / non-canonical so often in this context. It seems to me
                  self-evident that a historian should regard all sources from the outset as of
                  potentially equal value, without prejudicing any one on faith grounds. This
                  has to be one of the most important developments in the
                  methodology of some Jesus scholarship over the last 30 years or
                  so, and it is a great credit to the Jesus Seminar that they have pushed and
                  popularised the fact.

                  All the best

                  Mark
                  -------------------------------------------
                  Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
                  Dept. of Theology Tel: +44 (0)121 414 7512
                  University of Birmingham Fax: +44 (0)121 414 6866
                  Birmingham B15 2TT
                  United Kingdom

                  Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
                  World Without Q: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/q
                • Anne Quast
                  ... It is interesting to note that our Mahlon is in New Jersey. One of the founders of the city of Trenton was a Mahlon Stacy. The Stacy name (as a surname)
                  Message 8 of 19 , Jul 30 4:10 AM
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                    At 17:05 29/07/98 -0400, Jim West wrote:
                    >At 01:47 PM 7/29/98 -0700, you wrote:
                    >>BTW, I've been looking at the Book of Ruth lately; Now I know where the
                    >>name "Mahlon" comes from!
                    >
                    >Yes, and it means "sickness, weakness, feebleness"! But our Mahlon is none
                    >of those things, putting the lie to the ancient belief that names identify
                    >personality.
                    >
                    >One more note on Ruth- the Targum specifies that Mahlon died because he
                    >married a Moabite woman!
                    >
                    >Best,
                    >(and sorry for the off topic note).
                    >
                    >Jim
                    >
                    >++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
                    >Jim West, ThD
                    >jwest@...
                    >
                    >
                    It is interesting to note that our Mahlon is in New Jersey. One of the
                    founders of the city of Trenton was a Mahlon Stacy. The Stacy name (as a
                    surname) died out with Mahlon's son but both Mahlon and Stacy reappear
                    among his descendants. Are you one of those, Mahlon?
                  • Bob Schacht
                    ... Thanks for the clarification. ... Yes. ... Interestingly, I originally wrote experiential and then changed it to subjective ! My reasons for doing so
                    Message 9 of 19 , Jul 30 5:59 AM
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                      At 03:50 AM 7/30/98 -0400, Mahlon H. Smith wrote:
                      >Thanks for the kind words, Bob. I'm glad we can agree on basic
                      >scientific epistemology. I'd just like to add a few clarifications of my
                      >reasoning behind the sole point you took exception to:
                      >
                      >I wrote:
                      >...I am speaking of faith in the sense of Pascal's wager or Kierkegaard's
                      >leap. In that sense, a faith assumption functions much the same as a
                      >working hypothesis...

                      Thanks for the clarification.

                      >... Is that clearer?
                      >

                      Yes.

                      >> and most of them are not testable, except perhaps in a
                      >> peculiarly subjective way.
                      >
                      >I would agree if you'd emend that thesis to read "experiential" rather
                      >than "subjective."

                      Interestingly, I originally wrote "experiential" and then changed it to
                      "subjective"! My reasons for doing so are elusive, so I'll accept the
                      emendation.

                      >Subjectivity implies a purely private perspective;
                      >whereas experiences can be shared (presuming one accepts the hypothesis
                      >that there is a reality beyond oneself that includes subjects analogous
                      >to oneself).

                      This is a very good point.

                      >...
                      >As for your lucid analysis of the technical use of an "assumption" in
                      >logic. I concur with everything you said. Logical assumptions are not
                      >testable because they are by definition a matter of definition. That's
                      >the trick in the Augustinian/Anselmian argument for the existence of
                      >God. You start by getting the skeptic to agree that the word "God" is
                      >defined as "the greater than which cannot exist." If that person then
                      >admits that anything exists at all you've trapped him into admitting
                      >that God exists.
                      >

                      Works for me! :-)

                      >The only way to disprove a definition is to deny it....

                      This of course is not a 'disproof', but it is the only way to deal with a
                      definition you don't agree with. One can always counter with a different
                      and perhaps more plausible definition.

                      >
                      >To refocus this on Neil's argument, I would point out that the
                      >identification of non-Markan parallels in Matt & Luke as "Q material" is
                      >a matter of definition & thus is a logical proposition, not a
                      >faith-assumption or a hypothesis. The assertion that this material was
                      >derived from a written text that Matt & Luke had independent access to
                      >even though we don't is a literary source hypothesis that involves a
                      >faith assumption (that Luke did not copy this material from Matthew).

                      To me, this is a faith assumption only in your Random House dictionary
                      sense. But you have made your point well.

                      But some of these usages boil down to "De gustibus non disputandum est"
                      (There's no disputing taste.)

                      Cheers,
                      Bob
                      Robert Schacht
                      Northern Arizona University
                      Robert.Schacht@...

                      "This success of my endeavors was due, I believe, to a rule of 'method':
                      that we should always try to clarify and to strengthen our opponent's
                      position as much as possible before criticizing him, if we wish our
                      criticism to be worth while." [Sir Karl Popper, The Logic of Scientific
                      Discovery (1968), p. 260 n.*5]
                    • Mahlon H. Smith
                      ... Another non-relative. The line of Mahlons I fit into are from PA. But since CrossTalk is supposed to be focused on the historical Jesus, I d suggest that
                      Message 10 of 19 , Jul 31 9:31 AM
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                        Anne Quast wrote:
                        >

                        > >
                        > It is interesting to note that our Mahlon is in New Jersey. One of the
                        > founders of the city of Trenton was a Mahlon Stacy. The Stacy name (as a
                        > surname) died out with Mahlon's son but both Mahlon and Stacy reappear
                        > among his descendants. Are you one of those, Mahlon?

                        Another non-relative. The line of Mahlons I fit into are from PA.

                        But since CrossTalk is supposed to be focused on the historical Jesus,
                        I'd suggest that further inquiries about me be sent off-list.

                        Shalom!

                        Mahlon

                        --

                        *********************

                        Mahlon H. Smith,
                        Associate Professor
                        Department of Religion
                        Rutgers University
                        New Brunswick NJ

                        http://religion.rutgers.edu/mhsmith.html
                      • James R. Covey
                        ... Easy. John Dominic Crossan s _The Historical Jesus_. Mahlon, I d like to address your point in more detail right now, but since I m leaving for a holiday
                        Message 11 of 19 , Jul 31 10:19 AM
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                          re missive of 31/07/98 07:02 PM signed -Mahlon H. Smith- :

                          >If you do, please give examples & explain exactly why you think these
                          >are "methodological" whereas the JS procedures are not.

                          Easy. John Dominic Crossan's _The Historical Jesus_.

                          Mahlon, I'd like to address your point in more detail
                          right now, but since I'm leaving for a holiday weekend,
                          I'll just quickly point out that my comment was really
                          mostly addressed to what you describe as the Jesus
                          Seminar's "step 4."

                          >Step 4: Debate arguments pro & con the ascription of this saying: was
                          >there good reason to think it existed before this gospel writer wrote
                          >it? Was there good reason for accepting the ascription to HJ rather than
                          >someone else? The admissable criteria for arguing or questioning the
                          >genuineness of ascription of a pericope had to be historically,
                          >text-critically & tradition-history neutral.

                          Fine. But there was no method put in place for *applying* those
                          criteria, some of which, strictly speaking, contradict each other.
                          Different criteria were applied differently by different scholars,
                          leading to different results. Then it was all sorted out by a vote.

                          Crossan argues that, strictly speaking, the use of criteria without
                          a defined method (as in his example: Meier, and my example: the JSem)
                          does not a methodology make. I agree.

                          >I could accept a critique of JS
                          >methodology from Steve Davies or anyone else who had been involved in JS
                          >sessions.

                          Wow. Only JS participants are qualified to comment on its practices.
                          Now *there's* a foolproof methodology. How could it ever be broken?

                          James

                          -------------------------
                          James R. Covey
                          WWW Systems Developer
                          Cochran Interactive Inc.
                          http://www.cochran.com
                          direct ph. # 902.422.8915
                          office fax # 902.425.8659
                          jrcovey@...
                        • Mahlon H. Smith
                          ... Dear Jim: I must regard your post as evidence of your self-proclaimed status as CrossTalk s resident crank rather than the evaluation of a scientific
                          Message 12 of 19 , Jul 31 12:03 PM
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                            James R. Covey wrote:
                            >
                            > Indeed. For instance, let's point something out here.
                            >
                            > The Jesus Seminar *has no methodology* in the sense
                            > that Mahlon implies.

                            Dear Jim:

                            I must regard your post as evidence of your self-proclaimed status as
                            CrossTalk's resident crank rather than the evaluation of a scientific
                            researcher <g>. In the first place, you should realize that *you* are in
                            no position to evaluate the methodology of the JS since you were never a
                            participant in the JS debates. I could accept a critique of JS
                            methodology from Steve Davies or anyone else who had been involved in JS
                            sessions. Making the sort of blanket judgment that you have just made is
                            like me judging S. Hocking's methodology or lack thereof on the basis of
                            his Short History of Time. 5G is precisely that type of work, a
                            simplified report of researchers' conclusions for the general public,
                            not a detailed description of the research process that produced these
                            results.

                            In brief the JS methodology was this:

                            Task: to identify & evaluate the historical reliability of the primitive
                            oral Jesus tradition as evidenced in the earliest records.

                            Step 1: Locate every record of Jesus' words & deeds that can be
                            plausibly traced to the first 2 centuries CE, when one can plausibly
                            argue for a living oral tradition that was not directly dependent on a
                            Christian canon. In the process we found that this parameter was too
                            broad, since most writers after Justin (bef. 165 CE) could be shown to
                            have depended directly on the canonical gospels & therefore could be
                            cited only as evidence of the influence of Christian scripture.)

                            Step 2: Separate all sayings ascribed to J that could plausibly have
                            circulated independently of a connected narrative from those that could
                            not. [This included minimal dialogs & sayings with just enough Sitz to
                            make the saying ascribed to J intelligible]. Reserve dialog in longer
                            narrative units for evaluation of the historicity of the story of which
                            they were a part. [One of the major flaws of 5G is that it did not make
                            it clear that the historicity of dialog embedded in stories had not yet
                            been considered at the time of publication, so these lines should have
                            been printed in regular type rather than bold black. This is the fault
                            of the editors, not the JS's methodology]. The rationale for treating
                            sayings first is threefold: (a) it is easier to judge whether a saying
                            is likely to have come from an individual speaker than whether a story
                            can be traced to an eye witness; (b) sayings traceable to a historical
                            person give a better impression of that person as a distinct individual
                            than do descriptions presented by others [which is why a person's own
                            words carry more weight than 2nd hand testimony as evidence in a court
                            of law]; (c) more work had been done by previous scholars on the
                            historicity of HJ's sayings than on stories of his deeds.

                            Step 3. Compare every version of each Jesus saying regardless of the
                            canonical status of the text in which it was embedded to determine the
                            probable original logical core. Since HJ's words were spoken & probably
                            passed through many minds & were quoted on occasions that were not
                            directly related to their original context, the JS deliberately did not
                            try to reconstruct the original exact wording but focused on the
                            structure (i.e., inherent logic) of each saying.

                            Step 4: Debate arguments pro & con the ascription of this saying: was
                            there good reason to think it existed before this gospel writer wrote
                            it? Was there good reason for accepting the ascription to HJ rather than
                            someone else? The admissable criteria for arguing or questioning the
                            genuineness of ascription of a pericope had to be historically,
                            text-critically & tradition-history neutral.

                            Step 5: Conduct a blind poll (secret ballot) to get *every* Fellow's
                            opinion (whether or not (s)he had participated actively in the debate)
                            about whether that saying should be included in a data base of
                            historically reliable info about HJ.

                            Step 6: Record the relative consensus of active Fellows on a gradated
                            scale. Include only sayings with strong support for probable historicity
                            in the primary data base (red/pink).

                            Step 7: Require all Fellows to take primary (red/pink) sayings into
                            account in their historical portraits of Jesus. Allow Fellows freedom to
                            include secondary (gray) sayings, which the JS admitted possibly
                            contained some echo of HJ's thought, in their individual portraits of
                            HJ.

                            An analogous procedure was then followed regarding gospel accounts of a
                            more biographical nature. In the deeds phase of the seminar, however,
                            every proposition in each account was voted on as a separate item, since
                            everybody recognized that even a total fiction can include historically
                            reliable info.

                            I don't know of any other HJ scholarship including that of John Meier
                            (who violates his own advertised principles when it comes to miracles)
                            that more rigorously adheres to sound historical methodology than this.
                            If you do, please give examples & explain exactly why you think these
                            are "methodological" whereas the JS procedures are not. If you can't,
                            your charge stands exposed as a deliberate rhetorical barb, probably
                            intended to bait me ;-)

                            Shalom!

                            Mahlon

                            >
                            > p.s. But what I really want to know about "Mahlon" is, how
                            > does one pronounce it? MAW-lun? MAY-lun? Muh-LAWN?

                            The middle one (which is the Anglicized mispronunciation of Hebrew
                            MachLONE).

                            --

                            *********************

                            Mahlon H. Smith,
                            Associate Professor
                            Department of Religion
                            Rutgers University
                            New Brunswick NJ

                            http://religion.rutgers.edu/mhsmith.html
                          • Bob Schacht
                            ... Mahlon, Thank you for your spirited response to Covey s barb. However, this last sentence above does you and the JSem a disservice. I thought that the
                            Message 13 of 19 , Jul 31 12:52 PM
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                              At 03:03 PM 7/31/98 -0400, Mahlon H. Smith wrote:
                              >James R. Covey wrote:
                              >>
                              >> Indeed. For instance, let's point something out here.
                              >>
                              >> The Jesus Seminar *has no methodology* in the sense
                              >> that Mahlon implies.
                              >
                              >Dear Jim:
                              >
                              >I must regard your post as evidence of your self-proclaimed status as
                              >CrossTalk's resident crank rather than the evaluation of a scientific
                              >researcher <g>. In the first place, you should realize that *you* are in
                              >no position to evaluate the methodology of the JS since you were never a
                              >participant in the JS debates.

                              Mahlon,
                              Thank you for your spirited response to Covey's barb. However, this last
                              sentence above does you and the JSem a disservice. I thought that the whole
                              purpose of critical scholarship was to make the methodology so rigorous and
                              transparent that ONE SHOULD NOT HAVE TO BE THERE to judge the results. The
                              report of the results is supposed to be complete and sufficient unto
                              itself, as to be replicable by independent observers using the same
                              methods. In principle, each one of us should be able to convene our own
                              "Jesus Seminar", and based on the criteria published in the intro to T5G
                              evaluate each periocope, cast our own colored balls, and arrive at the same
                              conclusion. Otherwise, the process is flawed and the edifice of critical
                              scholarship would crumble.

                              >... 5G is precisely that type of work, a
                              >simplified report of researchers' conclusions for the general public,
                              >not a detailed description of the research process that produced these
                              >results.

                              Well, I dunno. It ain't exactly readers digest material. It seems to me
                              that the editors of T5G went to considerable lengths to lay out their
                              methodological criteria, and to explain in detailed notes after each
                              pericope what their reasoning was. It may not have been a *complete*
                              description of the results, but it was more ambitious than you indicate.

                              >
                              >In brief the JS methodology was this:
                              >...

                              Here follows your detailed theory/summary of JSem procedures.

                              But you missed Jim's point. In the end, all that methodological theory is
                              compressed into each JSem participant's vote, by colored ball, and the
                              vote, and the vote alone, determined the outcome. You *presume* that each
                              participant followed all of the detailed steps you outlined, and *presume*
                              that they allowed those steps to determine their vote, but you cannot
                              *know* how they actually decided to cast their vote. There is nothing to
                              prevent any of the scholars from completely ignoring the process and voting
                              their gut instinct, or their "faith", or whatever.

                              Now it is true that as I wrote above, each pericope included an explanation
                              of the vote, usually indicating with some plausibility that the guidelines,
                              the methodology you outlined, was not ignored. But these explanations are,
                              for the most part, ex post facto rationalizations of the results, no?

                              For the JSem process to be more provably tied to their announced
                              methodolgy, instead of one vote per pericope there should have been a
                              series of votes on each of the applicable governing principles, so that by
                              the time the final vote on the pericope was made, the results would have
                              become obvious due to the cumulative impact of the preceding votes. But
                              this was not done.

                              So I say that Jim had a point, even though I also think that the JSem made
                              a good-faith effort to play by the rules. And I do not accept your
                              assertion that only those who were there can judge what the JSem did.


                              Shalom!
                              Bob
                              "We all do tend to be hypercritical of the evangelists and take other
                              texts at face value."
                              --Stevan Davies, Wed, 14 Jan 1998 17:26:33
                            • Jim West
                              ... Methodology is the logos or reason of the method of study applied. Thus, when we discuss methodology we are discussing the reasons, the when, what,
                              Message 14 of 19 , Jul 31 3:09 PM
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                                At 09:26 PM 7/31/98 -0400, you wrote:
                                >I've enjoyed this thread considerably. I don't have the scholarly
                                >qualifications possessed by most members of this list, but maybe someone could
                                >answer a very simpleminded question. Why is it that we use the term
                                >"methodology," which sounds as though it should mean "the study of method,"
                                >when what we're discussing actually sounds more like "method?"
                                >
                                >Andy
                                >

                                Methodology is the "logos" or "reason" of the method of study applied.
                                Thus, when we discuss methodology we are discussing the reasons, the when,
                                what, where, how, and why of the questions we pose. Method is nothing other
                                than a set of questions. The "reason" (logos) for those questions is
                                essential, for a different set of questions would render a different set of
                                answers.

                                Jim

                                ++++++++++++++++++++++++
                                Jim West, ThD
                                Adjunct Professor of Bible
                                Quartz Hill School of Theology

                                jwest@...
                              • ASPD33@aol.com
                                I ve enjoyed this thread considerably. I don t have the scholarly qualifications possessed by most members of this list, but maybe someone could answer a very
                                Message 15 of 19 , Jul 31 6:26 PM
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                                  I've enjoyed this thread considerably. I don't have the scholarly
                                  qualifications possessed by most members of this list, but maybe someone could
                                  answer a very simpleminded question. Why is it that we use the term
                                  "methodology," which sounds as though it should mean "the study of method,"
                                  when what we're discussing actually sounds more like "method?"

                                  Andy
                                • Bob Schacht
                                  ... could ... Andy, When we be DOIN it, it be METHOD. When we be TALKIN about what we doin , and debatin whether we doin it RIGHT, then it be METHODOLOGY.
                                  Message 16 of 19 , Jul 31 7:19 PM
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                                    At 09:26 PM 7/31/98 -0400, ASPD33@... wrote:
                                    >I've enjoyed this thread considerably. I don't have the scholarly
                                    >qualifications possessed by most members of this list, but maybe someone
                                    could
                                    >answer a very simpleminded question. Why is it that we use the term
                                    >"methodology," which sounds as though it should mean "the study of method,"
                                    >when what we're discussing actually sounds more like "method?"
                                    >
                                    >Andy
                                    >

                                    Andy,
                                    When we be DOIN' it, it be METHOD.
                                    When we be TALKIN' about what we doin', and debatin' whether we doin' it
                                    RIGHT, then it be METHODOLOGY. Or so I'd s'pose. ;-)

                                    Bob
                                    "Is it not extraordinary to the point of being a miracle, that so loose
                                    and ill-constructed a narrative in an antique translation of a dubious
                                    text should after so many centuries still have power to quell and
                                    dominate a restless, opinionated, overexercised and undernourished,
                                    twentieth-century mind?"
                                    Malcolm Muggeridge _Jesus Rediscovered_ (1969), writing about
                                    the KJV New Testament -
                                  • Jack Kilmon
                                    ... I don t think any member of the JS would claim that all the criteria used were foolproof or that certain genuinely Yeshuine sayings did not fall through
                                    Message 17 of 19 , Jul 31 7:34 PM
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                                      James R. Covey wrote:

                                      > >Step 4: Debate arguments pro & con the ascription of this saying: was
                                      > >there good reason to think it existed before this gospel writer wrote
                                      > >it? Was there good reason for accepting the ascription to HJ rather than
                                      > >someone else? The admissable criteria for arguing or questioning the
                                      > >genuineness of ascription of a pericope had to be historically,
                                      > >text-critically & tradition-history neutral.

                                      I don't think any member of the JS would claim that all the criteria
                                      used were foolproof or that certain genuinely Yeshuine sayings did not
                                      fall through
                                      and certain non-Yeshuine sayings made the grade. I, for one, believe
                                      GThom 12 is genuine and I would bet that some of the members thought so
                                      too. I would also like to have seen more consideration given to Aramaic
                                      forms of the sayings with criteria for the Aramaic style and parallels
                                      in Aramaic texts..but on the whole I have to give the JS 3 stars (out
                                      of a possible four) for what they accomplished. I don't think the
                                      finished product as represented by 5G should be considered final and
                                      debate can continue by other scholars on the various "colors." The
                                      point is a groundwork has been laid where before there was only
                                      guesswork.

                                      I cant speak about the methodology of ascription assigment since
                                      I have not yet read the accounts of the text-critical debates. I'll
                                      get around to it though. In the meantime, the JS still gets my kudos.

                                      Jack

                                      --
                                      ______________________________________________

                                      Min d'LA rokHEM l'maRAN yeSHUa meshyCHA niheYAH. maRAN aTHA

                                      Jack Kilmon
                                      jkilmon@...

                                      http://www.historian.net
                                    • Mahlon H. Smith
                                      ... Dom Crossan was co-founder & co-chair of the JS & chief architect of the JS s research program throughout the sayings phase of the debates. He tried out
                                      Message 18 of 19 , Aug 1, 1998
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                                        James R. Covey wrote:
                                        >
                                        > re missive of 31/07/98 07:02 PM signed -Mahlon H. Smith- :
                                        >
                                        > >If you do, please give examples & explain exactly why you think these
                                        > >are "methodological" whereas the JS procedures are not.
                                        >
                                        > Easy. John Dominic Crossan's _The Historical Jesus_.

                                        Dom Crossan was co-founder & co-chair of the JS & chief architect of the
                                        JS's research program throughout the sayings phase of the debates. He
                                        tried out many of his own research ideas on us & refined his own
                                        methodology in the light of JS debates. His use of social modeling in
                                        *HJ* was the direct result of interaction with Bruce Malina, Jerry
                                        Neyrey, & others in the Social Facets section of the JS who also
                                        contributed to the debates on sayings in the early phases. In short, the
                                        methodology outlined in Crossan's *HJ* pp. xxvii-xxxix is in many ways a
                                        direct by-product of procedures developed in JS debates.

                                        The major difference is that Crossan's *HJ* like most HJ research is the
                                        work of an individual scholar while the JS conclusions are the result of
                                        debates between scholars with divergent assessments of the history of
                                        the tradition. The methods & procedures adopted by the JS were that of a
                                        public debate forum, not that of a research team working under the
                                        direction of a single mentor. The rules of debate, like any competition,
                                        have to respect divergent viewpoints & strategies within a mutually
                                        agreeable framework of interaction. So the conclusions of such a project
                                        cannot be expected to have the same uniform consistency as the work of a
                                        single mind. The point of my comparison of the JS to Galileo's method
                                        was limited to dedication to observation & objective description of
                                        concrete phenomena rather than to prior tradition. It was not meant to
                                        infer that the JS voting produced the same type of mathematically
                                        precise results.

                                        I wrote:

                                        > >The [JS's] admissable criteria for arguing or questioning the
                                        > >genuineness of ascription of a pericope had to be historically,
                                        > >text-critically & tradition-history neutral.

                                        Jim objected:
                                        >
                                        > Fine. But there was no method put in place for *applying* those
                                        > criteria, some of which, strictly speaking, contradict each other.
                                        > Different criteria were applied differently by different scholars,
                                        > leading to different results. Then it was all sorted out by a vote.
                                        >
                                        > Crossan argues that, strictly speaking, the use of criteria without
                                        > a defined method (as in his example: Meier, and my example: the JSem)
                                        > does not a methodology make. I agree.

                                        I have worked my way through Crossan's *HJ* a couple of times & have
                                        debated with him for the past 13 years, but don't recall him ever saying
                                        quite that. So you will have to refresh my aging mind with page or
                                        quote. Crossan is usually quite deferential to Meier & (except for Ray
                                        Brown) generally only quotes scholars he agrees with.

                                        Crossan's primary critique of HJ research is that it does not
                                        systematically respect (1) the chronological stratigraphy of sources &
                                        (2) multiple attestation. Thus, in proposing the JS agenda he gave
                                        priority to pericopae that are multiply attested in texts that he
                                        located in the earliest stratum of sources: particularly Q & GThom.
                                        Non-multiply attested Markan passages were treated next, followed by
                                        singularly attested passages in Q & GThom. Finally we sifted special
                                        sayings in Matt, Luke & GJohn. If you'll consult the Forum reports on
                                        the voting on pericopes for the sayings phase of the JS, I think you'll
                                        find that they mirror Crossan's stratigraphy of sources. The main
                                        difference is that in *HJ* Crossan uses only passages in his primary
                                        stratum that are multiply attested, while in the JS he sometimes argued
                                        red or pink for singly attested items in later strata & regularly
                                        accepted the fact that he was only one voice with one vote.

                                        As for your comment about the JS's lack of method "in place" for
                                        "applying" the criteria, please be more specific. What type of method
                                        for applying the criteria to what? Are you inferring that we had to get
                                        unanimity of 70+ scholars on how historical criteria were applicable to
                                        the literary sources *before* we got around to debating the historical
                                        value of the sayings & stories? If we had done that we have become mired
                                        in abstract philosophical issues & may never have gotten around to
                                        assessing the historicity of gospel pericopes. As a matter of fact, the
                                        very first paper presented at the JS was Eugene Boring's essay on the
                                        historical-critical method entitled: "Criteria of Authenticity: the
                                        Lucan Beatitudes as a Test Case" (FORUM 1,4 pp. 3-38). This was followed
                                        by papers on methodology by Crossan, Vernon Robbins & others. But in the
                                        end there was unanimous agreement that the best method for measuring
                                        consensus was to let consensus on methodology emerge in the course of
                                        debate.

                                        To prevent an endless debate on the semantics of "methodology" let me
                                        just quote my trusty Random House Dictionary's definition of that term:

                                        "A set of methods, principles and rules for regulating a given
                                        discipline."

                                        The set of methods, principles and rules used by the JS were those that
                                        have developed over centuries of historical criticism of biblical texts,
                                        so I fail to see in what sense you can claim that the JS was
                                        unmethodological.

                                        I wrote:
                                        >
                                        > >I could accept a critique of JS
                                        > >methodology from Steve Davies or anyone else who had been involved in JS
                                        > >sessions.

                                        Jim commented:
                                        >
                                        > Wow. Only JS participants are qualified to comment on its practices.
                                        > Now *there's* a foolproof methodology. How could it ever be broken?
                                        >

                                        I did not mean to imply that only participants were qualified to
                                        critique the JS, only that any critics should have familiarity with what
                                        they criticize. As a charter member of the JS I know that there have
                                        often been things that deserve criticism & correction. But your
                                        categoric generalizations did not strike me as particularly well
                                        informed about JS procedures. Forgive me, if I was mistaken. But for the
                                        past 13 years I have heard too much unfounded criticism by muckrakers,
                                        so that I've developed a rather low tolerance for this type of thing.

                                        Shalom!

                                        Mahlon

                                        P.S. Hope you have a good vacation.


                                        --

                                        *********************

                                        Mahlon H. Smith,
                                        Associate Professor
                                        Department of Religion
                                        Rutgers University
                                        New Brunswick NJ

                                        http://religion.rutgers.edu/mhsmith.html
                                      • Mahlon H. Smith
                                        ... An absolutely correct assessment. ... Precisely! The JS never represented its work as the final word on anything. It is always presented it as a capsule
                                        Message 19 of 19 , Aug 1, 1998
                                        • 0 Attachment
                                          Jack Kilmon wrote:
                                          >


                                          > I don't think any member of the JS would claim that all the criteria
                                          > used were foolproof or that certain genuinely Yeshuine sayings did not
                                          > fall through
                                          > and certain non-Yeshuine sayings made the grade.

                                          An absolutely correct assessment.

                                          > I don't think the
                                          > finished product as represented by 5G should be considered final and
                                          > debate can continue by other scholars on the various "colors." The
                                          > point is a groundwork has been laid where before there was only
                                          > guesswork.
                                          >
                                          Precisely! The JS never represented its work as the final word on
                                          anything. It is always presented it as a capsule summary of collegial
                                          reasoning & judgment at a particular moment in time. We reconsidered &
                                          altered some votes. And if we had the time, money & stamina to do the
                                          whole thing over I dare say that many more of our earlier decisions
                                          would come out somewhat differently. But we grow old & will be content
                                          if we have involved more people (both scholars & laypersons) in
                                          well-informed historical assessment of the Jesus tradition.

                                          Shalom!

                                          Mahlon
                                          --

                                          *********************

                                          Mahlon H. Smith,
                                          Associate Professor
                                          Department of Religion
                                          Rutgers University
                                          New Brunswick NJ

                                          http://religion.rutgers.edu/mhsmith.html
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