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23238Re: Discontinuity and Multiple Attestation

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  • Chris Weimer
    Jun 17, 2009
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      I saw when you wrote this on your blog, and I have to disagree. I don't think "discontinuity" is an especially strong criterion, and I've always been uncomfortable with that criterion applied either to the early church or to Judaism.

      I don't think, however, it's quite a flip of the coin. Meier is implying that Paul, Gos. John, Epist. Hebrews do not have access to such a tradition about oaths, but Matthew and James do. Since Matthew and James have this statement that conflicts so much both with other writers of the early church (Paul, John, Hebrews) and Judaism which proceeded it (Philo, Ben Sirah). How else, he is implicitly asking, would this prohibition against oaths arise in two independent documents of Matthew and James?

      It's certainly a fair question to ask. For me, it's merely a variation of multiple attestation, since one author alone could invent something that is discontinuous both from earlier Judaism and the early church. But when two authors do it, the likelihood of it becoming historical (under this paradigm we have assumed) increases.

      Chris Weimer

      --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, Loren Rosson <rossoiii@...> wrote:
      > List --
      > In A Marginal Jew, Volume 4, John Meier argues that the prohibition against oaths found in Mt 5:34-37 and Jas 5:12 goes back to the historical Jesus. He argues on the basis of discontinuity with pre-70 Judaism (no Jewish teaching around the turn of the era prohibited oaths entirely; Ben Sira warns against frequent swearing, and Philo says to avoid it whenever possible, but they don't forbid it entirely), but also invokes discontinuity with early Christianity and multiple attestation. I want to focus on these last two.
      > (1). Meier writes:
      > "In the first Christian generation, Paul swears on a regular basis, without giving it a second thought. His epistles are strewn with various oaths... The Epistle to the Hebrews makes much of solemn oaths pronounced by God and presupposes the habit of human swearing with no hint of disapproval. In the Book of Revelation, John the seer apparently sees no difficulty in portraying an angel taking an oath by the living God... Hence...the criterion of discontinuity [with early Christianity] argues strongly for the prohibition of oaths going back to Jesus." (pp 199-200)
      > (2). Now in the very next sentence, Meier appeals to multiple attestation to supplement his argument. Concluding that since Jas 5:12 is a clear parallel to Matt 5:34-37:
      > "The most reasonable conclusion is (1) that Jas 5:12 is an alternate form of the saying attributed to Jesus in Matt 5:34-37; and (2) that this Jesus tradition was transmitted in the early oral Christian tradition in two streams: the 'gospel' stream that retained an attribution to Jesus and that wound up in Matthew, and the 'epistolary' stream that wove sayings of Jesus into general Christian parenesis without attributing them to Jesus... We have in Jas 5:12/Matt 5:34-37 an unusual but valid example of multiple attestation." (pp 204-205)
      > So taking the criterion of discontinuity (with early Christianity) in tandem with multiple attestation, we see that the prohibition against oaths is not attested enough in the NT, yet is attested enough in the NT, and thus must be authentic.
      > Is this not a "heads I win, tails you lose" argument? Or am I missing something simple? Multiple attestation strikes me as a fairly reasonable criterion, but discontinuity with early Christianity contradicts it and seems useless.
      > Loren Rosson III
      > Nashua NH
      > http://lorenrosson.blogspot.com
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