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12296Re: [XTalk] Wright's NTPG (was Lloyd Re: Choice)

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  • Rikk E. Watts
    Jan 4, 2003
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      Hi Bob,

      Thanks for the welcome. Just a short foray I'm afraid - semester is nearly
      upon us.

      I won't reply seriatim since it could become rather cumbersome.

      Point one: positivism and an agent's motivation/intention. I think we agree
      that the issue here concerns the motivation of the human agent acting in
      history (i.e. moving beyond brute facts to intentionality behind human
      actions; Collingwood's "inside").

      My understanding of positivism is not that it requires evidence (realists
      are also interested in evidence) but rather that, historically, it was
      opposed to anything that was not accessible to direct sense experience
      (hence their hostility to Kant on the one hand, and Newton and to atomic
      theory on the other, though the advances in the latter have forced some
      concessions and moderation).

      If so, then it would be worth asking to what extent a rigorous positivist
      could speak with equal assurance about a brute fact and say e.g. Jesus'
      intention?

      On the other hand, I think I agree with your concerns that there is a danger
      of caricaturing the objective/subjective position (I think I've been guilty
      of this on occasion). Though I think sometimes the positivists have invited
      such.


      Point two: Wright and narrative. I think Wright uses narrative simply (and
      broadly) in the sense of a group's ideological self-definition (arising from
      its founding moment): i.e. what it means, generally speaking, to be a first
      century Palestinian Jew in contradistinction to Gentiles. As such it
      provides a framework for understanding the meaning of a given Jewish
      individual's action and thereby some insight into that individual's
      intention (and here I think he is building on people like Caird, Ben Meyer,
      and Harvey, the first and third I suspect reflecting the influence of
      Collingwood and the second explicitly a Lonerganian). Since an individual
      is not a series of discrete and disconnected actions, but presumably has
      some sense of core identity, it seems right to consider his individual
      actions within the totality of his life. This, I think, is the primary
      reason why Wright focuses on the canonical gospels (let me note as an aside
      though that his exclusion of John raises some very interesting questions; he
      says it is because John is more problematic in the scholarly community; but
      I wonder). Nevertheless, the Synoptics at least offer something of a whole
      account (in the way that isolated sayings or actions do not). That is, this
      is not naïve conservatism and my feeling is that most professional biblical
      scholars realize this.

      (Another aside: some have criticized him for not engaging in source and
      redaction criticism, but I think this is a misunderstanding. In my
      experience, source and redaction criticism almost inevitably lead, often
      very quickly, to making judgments on the basis of what we think Jesus'
      intention really was. But if that is the goal of the exercise how can it be
      assumed at the outset? Both Wright and Allison have I think correctly
      criticized Crossan's archeological approach, and we are all aware of the
      problems of the traditional critical criteria.)

      At the same time, I think he would also argue that reported actions which do
      not cohere with that map, are unlikely to be accurate (e.g. the assertion
      that Jesus traveled about Palestine riding across the sky on a golden arrow,
      would make no sense within his Jewish world nor with what the rest of what
      is reported about him, apart from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas :)). I guess
      this is a coherence/congruence approach to history (David, if you're
      listening, does this sound right?).

      So, as a first step, one takes the documents at face value, not naively but
      within the constraints of the exercise, to see if they "make sense" as
      broader wholes. Having done this, bits that clearly don't fit can be
      excluded and then attention paid to redaction and source issues but now with
      at least some kind of idea of the whole. Of course this doesn't happen
      quite so cleanly since the process of reflection is involved from the very
      beginning...

      I should probably stop.

      Regards,

      Rikk

      Dr. Rikk E. Watts (Cantab) Ph. (604) 224 3245
      Associate Professor of NT Fax. (604) 224 3097
      Regent College
      5800 University Boulevard, Vancouver, V6T 2E4
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