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Eric Eve Re: [XTalk] Miracles Again

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  • Horace Jeffery Hodges
    I think that it was Eric who mentioned his interest in and work on the issue of miracles and the problems that are posed for historical methodology if the
    Message 1 of 11 , Mar 2 8:21 PM
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      I think that it was Eric who mentioned his interest in
      and work on the issue of miracles and the problems
      that are posed for historical methodology if the
      possibility of miracles is granted.

      I should add that I see some of the same problems that
      other have mentioned.

      At any rate, some people might be interested in
      reading an online article by William Lane Craig, "The
      Problem Of Miracles: A Historical And Philosophical
      Perspective":

      http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/miracles.html

      I have to confess that I haven't actually read it, but
      Craig is a good philosopher, very knowledgeable, very
      careful. So, he probably gives a respectable overview
      of the problem.

      There's also an Alvin Plantinga website with several
      articles on naturalism as a philosophical assumption:

      http://www.homestead.com/philofreligion/Papersbyplantinga.html

      Plantinga is a very important contemporary theistic
      philosopher in the analytical tradition, so his
      articles would be worth looking at. (I haven't yet,
      though.)

      I don't know if these two concern themselves with
      developing a methodology for historical analysis of
      documents that grants the possibility of miracles, but
      even if not, they might provide a way in to those who
      have.

      Jeffery Hodges

      =====
      Horace Jeffery Hodges (Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley)
      Assistant Professor
      Hanshin University (Korean Theological University)
      447-791 Kyunggido, Osan-City
      Yangsandong 411
      South Korea

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    • Eric Eve
      ... Bob, Hey, no need to go overboard ! (or is this a case where an American quite has a different nuance from a British quite ?). ... translate ...
      Message 2 of 11 , Mar 3 2:26 AM
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        Bob Schacht wrote:

        > Eric Eve has intervened and contributed much to this debate. I have a few
        > points to pick with him, but generally consider his contributions
        > quite helpful.

        Bob,

        Hey, no need to go overboard <g>! (or is this a case where an American
        'quite' has a different nuance from a British 'quite'?).

        >> When I see a
        >> statement like "Jesus performed exorcisms" I almost automatically
        translate
        >> it into "Jesus performed (what were indigenously interpreted as)
        exorcisms",
        >> which would be enormously cumbersome to say in full each time; but I
        would
        >> read it thus against a background of having dipped into some of the
        >> anthropogical literature on spirit possession [much snipped]...
        >>(since 'demon possession' may be a form of 'culture bound disorder' that
        can
        >> only take place when the surrounding worldview makes it seem plausible).
        >> Perhaps this is the kind of nuance you have in mind when you sugest that
        the
        >> bald statement "Jesus peformed exorcisms" might mislead people (into
        >> supposing that the scholar who said this believed Jesus had cast out
        actual
        >> demons).

        > This scenario was extensively researched by Stevan Davies in his book,
        > Jesus the Healer.

        Yes, I've read it, and found it a useful discussion; although I'm not sure
        I'd go along with everything Stevan Davies says, there's a lot of
        interesting ideas in that book.

        > I appreciate your use of Kleinman's distinctions here. Most of Jesus'
        > healings were "healings" in Kleinman's sense. But we also need to explore
        > what is meant by a healing that is not also a cure. For example, one might
        > identify the healing of Peter's fevered mother (Mark 1:30-31, triple
        > tradition) as a healing but not a cure: perhaps her fever abated
        > momentarily, or maybe her perceptions changed (it is strange how one can
        > feel feverish, but not be, or at other times one does not feel feverish
        > even when one is running a fever.) But the issue is much more difficult in
        > the case of mental illnesses. There are many such that can be alleviated
        by
        > medications, and some of the same can alternatively be alleviated by
        > non-medical treatment. In both cases, the way the brain functions is
        > altered, but in one case the alteration is medically induced, and in the
        > other case it is not. I suggest that some of Jesus' healings were *also*
        > cures. But of course it is nearly impossible to determine which is which.

        Although some people (e.g. John Pilch) seem to have read Kleinman as meaning
        that healing and curing are mutually exclusive, I didn't understand him that
        way. He does speak of instances where there is an organic disease (not
        simply an illness) that does require biomedical intervention to effect a
        cure (I suppose he has in mind cancer and things like that), but I don't
        take him as meaning that's always the case. Part of Kleinman's point is that
        about half of illness episodes (or it may be more) are somatizations of
        social or psychological problems - remove the problem and you effectively
        have a 'cure' as well as a healing. Again, one might suppose that the body's
        natural propensity to heal (or even cure) itself might allow curing to take
        place through the intervention of a healer who promotes the right
        conditions. Again, Kleinman specifically allows that healing usually
        involves therapeutic actions, and these too may help effect a cure (as well
        as a healing). So yes, it's pefectly possible that some of Jesus' healing
        were *also* cures, but I also agree with you that it would be impossible for
        us to determine which.

        > I've heard speculation that he was actually walking on a sand bar or some
        > such. But Arthur C. Clarke's dictum re-asserts itself: to an Israelite of
        > the first Century, would a surf-boarder appear to be walking on the water?

        It now looks like you're using my earlier posts against me! <g>. I'm not
        sure what a first-century Israelite would make of a surf-boarder (would it
        look like *walking* on the sea?) but the anachronism of having Jesus
        surf-board across the Sea of Galilee is surely not much more plausible than
        having him actually tread the waves, or being equipped with an anti-gravity
        belt by a group of friendly visiting aliens. The suggestion that he was
        walking on a sand bar (or a floating log, which is another suggestion of
        this type) effectively makes him into a cheap conjuror - assuming he allowed
        those in the boat to continue to believe he'd actually been walking on the
        sea when he hadn't.

        Of course the easiest way he could have walked on the lake would be to
        freeze it first (leaving a channel for the boat to row through) - I guess
        that would have to count as walking on the sea! But I've never heard it
        suggested that that was a likely possibility!

        The problem is, one has not only to find an explanation that can plausibly
        explain why Jesus *appeared* to walk on the sea, but also explains either
        why Jesus saw fit not to disabuse the disciples of their mistake once he
        realized what they thought, or else why they continued to regard it as
        particularly significant once Jesus explained that he'd only been walking on
        a sandbar (and wouldn't Peter and the others with whom who'd be fishing the
        Sea of Galilee for a living know about sandbars?).

        But in any case this is getting a long way from my original point to Zeba,
        which is that walking on the sea is not really in the same category as
        exorcism or healing, and that whereas with exorcism or healing belief may
        help to bring about in actuality that which is believed,

        >> there is surely no case in which believing that someone walks on the
        >> sea makes it so.

        > Unless an appearance of walking on water makes it *seem* so. Given that at
        > least one generation transpired between the viewing (if historical) and
        the
        > telling, fine distinctions between "appeared to walk on water" and "walked
        > on water" might be blurred or forgotten. And then there's always Caligula.

        But none of this means that the belief that Jesus walked on water makes it
        the case that he actually did do. All you seem to be arguing is that there
        could have been some actual historical incident that gave rise to the
        account, and of course that's always possible (I'm not sure how we could
        ever *prove* the contrary).

        Best wishes,

        Eric
        -------------------------------
        Dr Eric Eve
        Harris Manchester College
        Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TD
        Tel: 01865 281473
      • Stephen C. Carlson
        ... I m not sure what the nuance of quite is in the UK, but on this side of the pond, it undoubtedly means very in this context. Stephen Carlson -- Stephen
        Message 3 of 11 , Mar 3 8:53 PM
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          At 10:26 AM 3/3/03 -0000, Eric Eve wrote:
          >Bob Schacht wrote:
          >> Eric Eve has intervened and contributed much to this debate. I have a few
          >> points to pick with him, but generally consider his contributions
          >> quite helpful.
          >
          >Hey, no need to go overboard <g>! (or is this a case where an American
          >'quite' has a different nuance from a British 'quite'?).

          I'm not sure what the nuance of "quite" is in the UK, but on this
          side of the pond, it undoubtedly means "very" in this context.

          Stephen Carlson
          --
          Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
          Synoptic Problem Home Page http://www.mindspring.com/~scarlson/synopt/
          "Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs chant the words." Shujing 2.35
        • mwgrondin <mwgrondin@comcast.net>
          ... Thanks for the URL, Jeffery. I admit that I was biased against Craig before I began reading, but I thought he acquited himself quite well in this article.
          Message 4 of 11 , Mar 3 9:16 PM
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            --- Jeffery Hodges wrote:
            > ... some people might be interested in reading an online article
            > by William Lane Craig, "The Problem Of Miracles: A Historical And
            > Philosophical Perspective":
            >
            > http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/miracles.html
            >
            > I have to confess that I haven't actually read it, but Craig
            > is a good philosopher, very knowledgeable, very careful. So,
            > he probably gives a respectable overview of the problem.

            Thanks for the URL, Jeffery. I admit that I was biased against
            Craig before I began reading, but I thought he acquited himself
            quite well in this article. (Personally, it's really a pleasure for
            me to read some philosophy again after so long away from it. Where
            else can one encounter such calm, clear, logical sequences of 90-
            word sentences? :-)

            > There's also an Alvin Plantinga website with several
            > articles on naturalism as a philosophical assumption:
            >
            > http://www.homestead.com/philofreligion/Papersbyplantinga.html
            >
            > Plantinga is a very important contemporary theistic philosopher
            > in the analytical tradition, so his articles would be worth
            > looking at. (I haven't yet, though.)

            Again, my initial perusal agrees with your assessment, Jeffery.
            I read some Plantinga in grad school, so this was in the nature of
            reacquaintance for me, but his papers at this site are fruitful
            reading, IMO (in spite of the fact that I don't share his stance
            or his conclusions). I found his 1991 paper on evolution
            particularly intriguing in its attempt to work out an "enlightened"
            Christian attitude toward perceived conflicts between faith and
            science.

            > I don't know if these two concern themselves with developing
            > a methodology for historical analysis of documents that grants
            > the possibility of miracles, but even if not, they might provide
            > a way in to those who have.

            Toward the end of his paper, Craig opts for a methodology suggested
            by Pannenberg, best captured perhaps by Craig's statements:

            "When, for example, myths, legends, illusions, and the like are
            dismissed as unhistorical, it is not because they are unusual, but
            because they are analogous to present forms of consciousness having
            no objective referent. ... Thus, he [Pannenberg] has elsewhere
            affirmed that if the Easter traditions were shown to be essentially
            secondary constructions analogous to common comparative religious
            models, the Easter appearances were shown to correspond completely
            to the model of hallucinations, and the empty tomb tradition were
            evaluated as a late legend, then the resurrection would be subject
            to evaluation as unhistorical."

            At the risk of possibly contradicting my own earlier remarks to
            Bob, I have to say that I don't sense anything wrong with this
            methodology - at first glance, anyway. The apparent inconsistency
            is due, I think, to assuming that "a priori" ruling-out of miracles
            is a "pure" mental activity divorced from experience. But that
            seems not to be the case. Such an decision seems actually to be
            based on the sum total of one's existential experience up to that
            point. (As Kant might say, it's "synthetic a priori" instead
            of "analytic a priori".) So, insofar as the Craig-Pannenberg
            methodology captures the existential considerations that leads one
            person to rule out miracles "a priori" and another to accept them
            "a priori", any apparent inconsistency may be just that.

            Mike Grondin
            Mt. Clemens, MI
          • Horace Jeffery Hodges
            Mike Grondin wrote:
            Message 5 of 11 , Mar 4 2:50 PM
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              Mike Grondin wrote:

              <I admit that I was biased against Craig before I
              began reading, but I thought he acquited himself quite
              well in this article.... I read some Plantinga in grad
              school, so this was in the nature of reacquaintance
              for me, but his papers at this site are fruitful
              reading.>

              Glad that the links were helpful. Now, you've gotten
              me interested in actually reading the papers that I
              'recommended'!

              Jeffery Hodges

              =====
              Horace Jeffery Hodges (Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley)
              Assistant Professor
              Hanshin University (Korean Theological University)
              447-791 Kyunggido, Osan-City
              Yangsandong 411
              South Korea

              __________________________________________________
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            • Karel Hanhart
              ... From: To: Sent: Tuesday, March 04, 2003 6:16 AM Subject: Eric Eve Re: [XTalk] Miracles Again ... Dear
              Message 6 of 11 , Mar 5 2:11 AM
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                ----- Original Message -----
                From: <mwgrondin@...>
                To: <crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com>
                Sent: Tuesday, March 04, 2003 6:16 AM
                Subject: Eric Eve Re: [XTalk] Miracles Again


                > --- Jeffery Hodges wrote:
                > > ... some people might be interested in reading an online article
                > > by William Lane Craig, "The Problem Of Miracles: A Historical And
                > > Philosophical Perspective":
                > >
                > > http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/miracles.html
                > >
                > > I have to confess that I haven't actually read it, but Craig
                > > is a good philosopher, very knowledgeable, very careful. So,
                > > he probably gives a respectable overview of the problem.

                Dear Mike and Rikk,

                While I have followed your posts with interest, I've refrained
                from entering into the discussion. Now that William Lane Craig has been
                mentioned I cannot help referring to his book and articles on Mark's
                resurrection story and my attempt [in the "The Open Tomb, A New
                Approach. Mark's Passover Haggadah (±72 CE)] to answer
                his arguments. He tried to answer point by point all arguments
                of interpreters who questioned an historically empty grave.
                I in turn researched the reasons offered in favor of a historically
                literal interpretation of the text. I venture to say his attempt
                to provide a philosophical foundation for supernatural
                miracles is anchored in his exegesis of the story of what he calls
                the "empty tomb".
                However, I believe the quest for understanding the miracle stories
                willnot be solved through a philosophical dispute of the secular
                versus the sacred. In this regard a literary analysis
                of Mark's epilogue should provide an answer not a philophical
                dispute on miracles and the afterlife.
                Thus far Craig hasn't been forthcoming with a exegetical reply to my
                thesis of 600 pages. If someone has found an article or review in which such
                a reply has been aired - except the sterile argument that my argumentation
                is "speculative" - I would be, believe me, very much obliged.
                Briefly, I have taken seriosuly Claude G. Montefiore's suggestion in his
                1927 (!)
                commentary on Mark in his Synoptic Gospels. Mark's 'opened memorial tomb'
                story may well be a midrash on LXX Isa 22,16; 33,16 en Gen 29,3. Of course,
                Montefiore was the only English liberal Jewish scholar who wrote a full
                fledged
                commentary on the Gospels.
                My findings were that the Gospel of Mark is not antisemitic as some
                believe; it is a genuine Jewish work by a follower of Jesus. Read in its
                proper
                historical context Mark must have written a post-70 Passover Haggadah to be
                used in the liturgy of a first century ecclesia during Pesach and Shabuot.
                Craig claims that a first century Jew, like Paul, could not have imagined a
                bodiless existence
                after death: "a Jew could not think otherwise". I answered "of course not,
                nobody can! One
                need not be a Jew for that". Paul was assured however that God "gives it a
                body as
                he has chosen" (1 Cor 15,38). Thus far ..philosophy.
                Four literary data appear to me sufficient to arouse one's interest in a
                rebuttal against
                Craig's literal interpretation. 1) Mark evidently refers to LXX Isa 22,16
                with his
                "monumental grave hewn out of the the rock" in 15,46 eventhough the critical
                editions of the Greek New Testament fail to mention the parallel
                expression.
                2) What the women [metaphorically] "saw", provides the framework of
                Mark's epilogue ( 15,40.46; 16,4). Mark uses three different words for
                their "seeing" :
                THEOREIN, ORAN and BLEPEIN.
                3) Mark makes clear that their seeing is visionary, just as in LXX Isa
                22,1ff and 32,9.
                If they had literally seen that the stone had been removed (by a
                supernatural power)
                the women would have looked ahead of them in order to observe this
                phenomenon. In
                stead, they look 'up' ( ANABLEPSSASAI ), just as Jesus looked 'up' before
                he multiplied the bread (6,41 ANABLEPSAS). This looking up evidently
                establishes
                a contact with heavenly realities.
                4) If they had literally seen the removal of the stone, the angel should
                have said
                in Greek IDETE (plural - there were three women-) TON TOPON (accusative
                as the object of their seeing). In stead the angel speaks with a Hebraism
                IDE - HO TOPOS - ra'eh ha-maqom = behold - the (holy) place.
                In LXX Isa 22,16 the monumental tomb represents the doomed temple in the
                days of Isaiah.

                cordially yours,

                Karel
              • mwgrondin
                ... Hi Karel- I entirely agree that the _understanding_ of the miracle stories (or, rather, their rhetorical function and purpose) isn t a philosophical issue.
                Message 7 of 11 , Mar 5 9:45 AM
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                  --- Karel Hanhart wrote:
                  > ... I believe the quest for understanding the miracle stories
                  > willnot be solved through a philosophical dispute of the secular
                  > versus the sacred. In this regard a literary analysis
                  > of Mark's epilogue should provide an answer not a philophical
                  > dispute on miracles and the afterlife.

                  Hi Karel-
                  I entirely agree that the _understanding_ of the miracle stories
                  (or, rather, their rhetorical function and purpose) isn't a
                  philosophical issue. The philosophical issue is the _possibility_
                  of their being literally true. But textual analysis of the type
                  you've performed reveals that it wasn't even their raison d'etre in
                  the first place to report historical events, so whichever approach
                  one takes, the result is the same - non-historicity. (And here, as
                  elsewhere, I have in mind the so-called "nature miracles", not
                  stories of "miraculous" healings, most of which one can readily
                  believe. Indeed, the two types of stories are so disparate in my
                  own mind that I'm constantly amazed that anyone would think to lump
                  them together. To me, the one is possibly true, the other not.)

                  I might also add that Craig's philosophical paper on methodology
                  is of a different order from his arguments for the historicity of
                  the empty tomb (the familiarity with which caused me to say that I
                  was initially "biased" against him). One can agree with Craig the
                  philosopher, and yet strongly dispute Craig the exegete.

                  Mike Grondin
                  Mt. Clemens, MI
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