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Re: [XTalk] Miller's article about the jesus seminar

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  • Bob Schacht
    ... The article about the JS is by sometime XTalker Robert Miller. He is clearly writing as an apologist for the Jesus Seminar, and is trying to present its
    Message 1 of 7 , Jul 30, 2003
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      At 10:17 PM 7/30/2003 -0400, Zeba Crook wrote:
      >I thought this was a good article.

      The article about the JS is by sometime XTalker Robert Miller. He is
      clearly writing as an apologist for the Jesus Seminar, and is trying to
      present its best face.

      >I particularly liked his suggestion
      >that when conservative critics criticise the JS in public, they're not
      >making clear that they too in fact accept (many of) the same
      >pressupositions that fuels the work of the JS.

      OK by me.

      > The public is left thinking that the JS is made up of some fringe wackos
      > who haven't got a clue.

      Here Miller (and Zeba?) are being a bit disingenuous. For example, Miller
      wrote,

      >Numerous snide comments about the Seminar being hungry for publicity show
      >that other critics also resent the public face of the Seminar.

      These statements ignore the publicity tactics of some persons connected
      with the Jesus Seminar. Whether Funk himself, Crossan, publicists for
      Polebridge press, or others, I am not in a position to judge. When I took a
      look once at the flyleafs of Polebridge books about the Jesus Seminar, I
      found breathless proclamations like, Jesus never said the Lord's Prayer!! I
      once hung around the Polebridge display at the next SBL and looked at their
      publicity material. Crossan, if not the source, clearly supported these
      tendentious in-your-face proclamations because of the way he talks about
      stating conclusions in The Birth of Christianity (p.20). He wants us to
      *decide*-- no maybes or ifs or buts but YES or NO. He holds up the model of
      a court of Law where guilt or innocence must be decided: A jury cannot
      decide that the defendant might have been guilty. What he neglects in this
      model is that the law DOES allow for shades of grays between black and
      white-- and says that gray means not guilty.

      Furthermore, the leaders of the JSem were keenly aware that in order to
      engage the public, you first have to get their attention. And one sure way
      to get their attention is to kill a sacred cow or two. Bad publicity was
      seen as better than no publicity. So in this sense Miller sounds like a
      naive apologist for the Seminar.



      > I also really liked his claim that biblical scholars need to make
      >their presence felt in public discourse where the Bible figures.

      Maybe, but I don't like doing this by sacrificing nuance, and throwing
      scholarly caution to the wind.
      However, I concede that there are times that for Socratic effect, I might
      indulge myself in some rhetorical exaggeration in order to draw out a
      protagonist. But what works in private conversation can look like a
      publicity stunt when done in publicity releases, where no dialogue is possible.

      >In all, in combination with Dubya's announcement today, it made me
      >particularly happy to be Canadian.

      Dubya is another one of those who disdains nuance.


      >Thanks for bringing this to our attention Jim.
      >
      >Cheers,
      >
      >Zeb

      Indeed, my thanks, too. Those who have followed my posts over the years
      know that although I am often a critic of the JSem, it is also true that
      when engaged in exegesis I often turn first to The Five Gospels or the Acts
      of Jesus. I respect their work, but I do not always agree with their
      conclusions.
      Bob


      >Jim West wrote:
      >
      > >Listers may want to look at this essay on the Jesus Seminar
      > >
      > >http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/Jesus_Seminar.htm
      > >
      > >Jim
      > >
      > >
      >--
      >
      >Please note new address information:
      >
      >
      >
      >Business Address
      >
      >Z.A. Crook
      >
      >Carleton University
      >
      >1125 Colonel By Drive
      >
      >Ottawa, ON, K1S 5B6
      >
      >(613) 520-2600
      >
      >Department of Classics and Religion
      >
      >Patterson Hall 2A54
      >
      >Email: zeba_crook@... <mailto:zeba_crook@...>
      >
      >Website: http://www.carleton.ca/~zcrook <http://www.carleton.ca/%7Ezcrook>
      >
      >
      >
      >Home Address:
      >
      >4 - 135 Windsor Crescent
      >
      >London, ON, N6C 1V9
      >
      >519-438-7889
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      >
      >
      >
      >
      >The XTalk Home Page is http://ntgateway.com/xtalk/
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    • Mark Goodacre
      Agreed about Robert Miller s article -- I enjoyed reading it too; he sets a good example, on the whole, in responding rationally to vociferous critics. A
      Message 2 of 7 , Jul 31, 2003
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        Agreed about Robert Miller's article -- I enjoyed reading it too; he
        sets a good example, on the whole, in responding rationally to
        vociferous critics. A comment relevant to the current discussion
        arising from Eric Eve's article:

        > If the Seminar is right that Thomas is an independent source, then Thomas
        > provides multiple independent attestations for a considerable number of
        > otherwise singly-attested canonical sayings.

        What struck me here was that Thomas takes us from "singly" attested
        canonical sayings to "multiple" independent attestations. One thing
        that does strike me as odd about the terminology of "multiple
        attestation" is that often we are only talking about, at best, a
        handful of attestations; and here, in Miller's case, only double
        attestation. Isn't the term "multiple" in all these case, even
        accepting the premises of things like Q and an independent Thomas,
        too much?

        While on the topic of Thomas, I think that the following is a greatly
        exaggerated claim:

        > Many critics have faulted the Seminar for its alleged over reliance on
        > Thomas. Most of that criticism is aimed at the SeminarÂ’ s consensus that
        > Thomas is not dependent on the canonical gospels, though nearly all
        > specialists in Thomas and most of the SeminarÂ’s critics agree that Thomas
        > contains sayings that are early and independent.

        "Nearly all" specialists in Thomas? "Most of" the seminar's critics?
        I'd suggest "many" and "some" respectively.

        Mark




        -----------------------------
        Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
        Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
        University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 4381
        Birmingham B15 2TT UK

        http://www.theology.bham.ac.uk/goodacre
        http://NTGateway.com
      • LeeEdgarTyler@aol.com
        In a message dated 7/31/2003 4:09:40 AM Central Standard Time, M.S.Goodacre@bham.ac.uk writes: Agreed about Robert Miller s article -- I enjoyed reading it
        Message 3 of 7 , Jul 31, 2003
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          In a message dated 7/31/2003 4:09:40 AM Central Standard Time,
          M.S.Goodacre@... writes:
          Agreed about Robert Miller's article -- I enjoyed reading it too; he
          sets a good example, on the whole, in responding rationally to
          vociferous critics. A comment relevant to the current discussion
          arising from Eric Eve's article:

          > If the Seminar is right that Thomas is an independent source, then Thomas
          > provides multiple independent attestations for a considerable number of
          > otherwise singly-attested canonical sayings.

          What struck me here was that Thomas takes us from "singly" attested
          canonical sayings to "multiple" independent attestations. One thing
          that does strike me as odd about the terminology of "multiple
          attestation" is that often we are only talking about, at best, a
          handful of attestations; and here, in Miller's case, only double
          attestation. Isn't the term "multiple" in all these case, even
          accepting the premises of things like Q and an independent Thomas,
          too much?


          A case of rhetorical excess that would almost constitute deception if it were
          not first made clear just how many written sources is "multiple." And of
          course the key word here is "written," since that is all we have now to rely on.
          But we know from other cases that a single oral folkloric source can generate
          more than one written account, so even if we have two or three accounts that
          appear to be textually unrelated it is by no means a guarantee that we have
          true "multiple attestation" in the sense that these scholars use the term. It's
          not even particularly likely, in my opinion. That's especially true of
          aphoristic statements that can circulate without any narrative frame and that have a
          generalized applicability. "A prophet is without honor in his own country,"
          for instance.

          Ed Tyler

          http://hometown.aol.com/leeedgartyler/myhomepage/index.html


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Zeba Crook
          ... I don t understand your use of disingenuous. I understand this word to mean that one knows something is not true but spins or distorts the evidence to
          Message 4 of 7 , Jul 31, 2003
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            Bob Schacht wrote:

            >>The public is left thinking that the JS is made up of some fringe wackos who haven't got a clue.
            >>
            >>
            >
            >Here Miller (and Zeba?) are being a bit disingenuous. For example, Miller
            >wrote,
            >
            >
            >>Numerous snide comments about the Seminar being hungry for publicity show that other critics also resent the public face of the Seminar.
            >>
            I don't understand your use of disingenuous. I understand this word to
            mean that one knows something is not true but spins or distorts the
            evidence to make it appear true. I can categorically state that I do
            not think the JS to be fringe wackos. And that is an entirely different
            topic than whether they made the correct decisions concerning how to
            grab the public's attention. That would hardly make them wacko's, and
            it would hardly distinguish them from numerous respectable groups who
            believe that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

            What I was referring to in particular with my comment was that I still
            hear people dismiss the entirety of the seminar's work, credentials and
            motivation with a single reference to their voting with coloured beads,
            as if that's all you need to say (wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more)
            to illustrate their comprehensive lack of validity. Cricitism of the
            seminar for something like was ad hominem (leaving the impression they
            were wackos), electing not to engage them academically.

            Cheers,

            Zeb
            --

            Please note new address information:



            Business Address

            Z.A. Crook

            Carleton University

            1125 Colonel By Drive

            Ottawa, ON, K1S 5B6

            (613) 520-2600

            Department of Classics and Religion

            Patterson Hall 2A54

            Email: zeba_crook@... <mailto:zeba_crook@...>

            Website: http://www.carleton.ca/~zcrook <http://www.carleton.ca/%7Ezcrook>



            Home Address:

            4 - 135 Windsor Crescent

            London, ON, N6C 1V9

            519-438-7889




            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • sdavies0
            ... reliance on Thomas. Most of that criticism is aimed at the Seminar s consensus that Thomas is not dependent on the canonical gospels, though nearly
            Message 5 of 7 , Jul 31, 2003
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              --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, "Mark Goodacre"
              <M.S.Goodacre@b...> wrote:

              > While on the topic of Thomas, I think that the following is a
              greatly > exaggerated claim:
              >
              > > Many critics have faulted the Seminar for its alleged over
              reliance on> > Thomas. Most of that criticism is aimed at the
              Seminar' s consensus that> > Thomas is not dependent on the
              canonical gospels, though nearly all> > specialists in Thomas and
              most of the Seminar's critics agree that Thomas
              > > contains sayings that are early and independent.
              >
              > "Nearly all" specialists in Thomas?

              Yeah. But A) there really aren't very many such specialists. There's
              a hive of them in Finland and perhaps Antti knows what they think.
              And B) the specialists are likely to be a biased source for they
              have probably become specialists partly because they think that the
              independent Thomas is a valuable item whereas those who think Thomas
              dependent do not place much, if any, value on it.

              > "Most of" the seminar's critics?
              > I'd suggest "many" and "some" respectively.

              Jeez. Since essentially all the evangelical scholars in the world,
              or perhaps even all the conservative Christian scholars who are
              asware of the seminar are seminar critics and none of them place any
              value on any text outside of the Holy Scriptures, I'd say "FEW of
              the Seminar's critics agree that Thomas contains sayings that are
              early and independent."

              I note that Miller thinks, as does the Seminar itself, that
              consensus among scholars constitutes strong evidence in and of
              itself. This is probably true in quite a lot of fields, but I do not
              think it is true in the study of Sacred Scripture where childhood
              training governs the judgements of so very many.

              Another Seminar anecdote: I was chatting with Miller, come to think
              of it, about how he and I appeared to be the only people there who
              had not been seminary trained or who were not actual practicing
              divines (this kind of data is revaled in little bios at the back of
              the 4 gospels book). Well, he says, I guess you haven't heard about
              the fact that I spent a lot of years in Jesuit training. So I guess
              it's just little me all alone. That's why I'm so peculiar.

              Steve
            • Bob Schacht
              ... Zeb, OK, I stand corrected. I don t happen to think the JSem are fringe wackos either. ... OK, but what got me off was the Miller quote about Numerous
              Message 6 of 7 , Jul 31, 2003
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                At 08:48 AM 7/31/2003 -0400, you wrote:
                >Bob Schacht wrote:
                >
                > >>The public is left thinking that the JS is made up of some fringe
                > wackos who haven't got a clue.
                > >>
                > >>
                > >
                > >Here Miller (and Zeba?) are being a bit disingenuous. For example, Miller
                > >wrote,
                > >
                > >
                > >>Numerous snide comments about the Seminar being hungry for publicity
                > show that other critics also resent the public face of the Seminar.
                > >>
                >I don't understand your use of disingenuous. I understand this word to
                >mean that one knows something is not true but spins or distorts the
                >evidence to make it appear true. I can categorically state that I do
                >not think the JS to be fringe wackos.

                Zeb,
                OK, I stand corrected. I don't happen to think the JSem are fringe wackos
                either.

                > And that is an entirely different
                >topic than whether they made the correct decisions concerning how to
                >grab the public's attention. That would hardly make them wacko's, and
                >it would hardly distinguish them from numerous respectable groups who
                >believe that there is no such thing as bad publicity.

                OK, but what got me off was the Miller quote about "Numerous snide
                comments...", which suggests that the Seminar was merely minding its own
                business with purity of heart and mind and soul, only to be viciously
                attacked by an ignorant public. Au contraire, Funk has an agenda, and he's
                published a book about it.


                >What I was referring to in particular with my comment was that I still
                >hear people dismiss the entirety of the seminar's work, credentials and
                >motivation with a single reference to their voting with coloured beads,
                >as if that's all you need to say (wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more)
                >to illustrate their comprehensive lack of validity. Cricitism of the
                >seminar for something like was ad hominem (leaving the impression they
                >were wackos), electing not to engage them academically.

                True enough. Still, they have brought this on themselves, to some extent.
                Bob


                >Cheers,
                >
                >Zeb
                >--
                >
                >Please note new address information:
                >
                >
                >
                >Business Address
                >
                >Z.A. Crook
                >
                >Carleton University
                >
                >1125 Colonel By Drive
                >
                >Ottawa, ON, K1S 5B6
                >
                >(613) 520-2600
                >
                >Department of Classics and Religion
                >
                >Patterson Hall 2A54
                >
                >Email: zeba_crook@... <mailto:zeba_crook@...>
                >
                >Website: http://www.carleton.ca/~zcrook <http://www.carleton.ca/%7Ezcrook>
                >
                >
                >
                >Home Address:
                >
                >4 - 135 Windsor Crescent
                >
                >London, ON, N6C 1V9
                >
                >519-438-7889
                >
                >
                >
                >
                >[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                >
                >
                >
                >The XTalk Home Page is http://ntgateway.com/xtalk/
                >
                >To subscribe to Xtalk, send an e-mail to: crosstalk2-subscribe@yahoogroups.com
                >
                >To unsubscribe, send an e-mail to: crosstalk2-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
                >
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                >
                >
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