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Re: Galilean (as in Galileo, not Galilee!) method.

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  • 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 1 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 2 of 19 , Aug 1, 1998
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        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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