12296Re: [XTalk] Wright's NTPG (was Lloyd Re: Choice)
- Jan 4, 2003Hi Bob,
Thanks for the welcome. Just a short foray I'm afraid - semester is nearly
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'
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
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
I should probably stop.
Dr. Rikk E. Watts (Cantab) Ph. (604) 224 3245
Associate Professor of NT Fax. (604) 224 3097
5800 University Boulevard, Vancouver, V6T 2E4
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