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3167[XTalk] Re: Reynolds Price and Jesus at 2000

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  • Sukie Curtis
    Dec 4, 1999
      I am writing very quickly (on borrowed sermon time) in response to Brian
      Tucker'r s request and Bob Schacht's response.
      > On Fri, 03 Dec 1999 22:23:23 -0500 Brian Tucker <jbtucker@...>
      > writes:
      > > Greetings
      > >
      > > I have received a number of emails from people this week asking my
      > > opinion on the article by Reynolds Price in Time magazine. Does anyone
      > > know his background?
      > No.
      > > Second, I would like some opinions from the list
      > > that I may share with my class tomorrow, concerning his article. (Time
      > > Dec. 6, 1999, 84-94)
      > >
      > Reynolds Price's piece is heavily influenced by two things: His task as a
      > storyteller, and his own visionary experience (which he summarizes near
      > the end of the article.) These are not bad things, but they are important
      > to understand his novellette re-telling of incidents from the Gospels.
      > Given his task as a storyteller, he must perforce look at the
      > possibilities in the texts, not their impossibilities. That is, unless he
      > is to remake the story out of whole cloth, he must base it on
      > possibilities in the Gospels and in related stories of the first
      > centuries C.E. Thus, he will take and use the gray and even black
      > material in The Five Gospels and The Acts of Jesus if he needs it to
      > round out a story line. Retelling the story based only on the strictest
      > contemporary standards of historical "fact" would leave him with very
      > little to work with.
      > His task as a writer also allow-- even demand-- that he endow his cameos
      > with a sense of mystery. Mystery is what creates and sustains interest in
      > a story. Even the most factual account must contain mystery-- if only in
      > the form of gaps in the narrative for which there is no reliable
      > evidence. So for his task as a writer he must use both mystery and mood.
      > I write the above not to trash his article in Time, but to defend his use
      > of poetic license. This does not mean that I agree with his novelization
      > but that, given his task, it would be difficult for him to do otherwise.
      > His own personal experiences reinforce his writer's need to look at the
      > possibilities in the text that go beyond mere historical literalism. In
      > this regard, he is probably more in the tradition of Raymond Brown, L. T.
      > Johnson, Tom Wright or Ben Witherington than J.D.Crossan or Burton Mack.
      > In other words, in this sample from Time magazine, Reynolds Price shows
      > himself less as a cautious critical scholar then as a scholarly novelist.
      > IMHO.
      > Bob

      I'd say that calling him a "scholarly novelist" is over-generous. He
      mentions scholarship in the article, but I don't see any evidence that he
      has read taken much of it seriously. A novelist, yes, and one with a
      determinative personal experience, yes, as Bob says. But I don't buy that
      the only option for a novelist interacting with historical Jesus scholarship
      is tell the same old stories more or less the same old way, but with mystery
      and mood. I found the article basically worthless, or even worse than
      worthless--as he made pretenses to taking recent discoveries and recent
      scholarship seriously, but, in my opinion, with very poor results.

      This too, of course, IMHO.

      Sukie Curtis
      Cumberland Foreside, Maine

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