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Re : Common ground for study

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  • Eric Eve
    ... Neither of these statements is unreasonable or untrue, but I think they could be taken as suggesting or presupposing (or leading to) something more
    Message 1 of 12 , Aug 1, 2003
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      Steve Davies wrote:

      > On a related matter being discussed here, I, and I suspect Mike
      > Grondin, seem to take people's Christian faith seriously. So, it
      > should follow, that if a person will make certain faith statements
      > in regard to Jesus that that person will hold views of Jesus that
      > will effect his notions of HJ.

      Mike Grondin wrote:

      > No. 'Z' is a variable. I specifically didn't use 'X' cuz I feared
      > it would be mistaken to represent Christianity. Now as to your
      > further questions (which I won't quote, since they somewhat
      > embodied the misunderstanding): I generally believe that good
      > history requires both knowledge of, and "distance" from, subject.
      > This "distance" is what I would call 'impartiality'. One needs to
      > be close enough to know the subject, but yet far enough away so
      > as not to act as a shill for the subject. A balancing act, for sure.
      > Now you put church history in the hands of a Eusebius, say, and you
      > aren't likely to see any embarassing warts. Put it in the hands of
      > someone at the opposite pole and all you see is warts.

      Neither of these statements is unreasonable or untrue, but I think they
      could be taken as suggesting or presupposing (or leading to) something more
      questionable, and that it is that the *only* significant factor predisposing
      a scholar's view on the HJ is the presence or absence of his/her faith. I
      know neither Steve nor Mike have said this, and it may be that they both
      disown is, but there's a danger here that needs pointing out, and that is,
      that to an outsider, it can begin to look as if 'impartiality' is being
      equated with the particular worldview of secular North American academics.
      *Of course* Steve is correct in pointing out that one might reasonably
      expect someone's faith stance to impact on their view of the HJ, but this is
      only a particular instance of the fact that all historians are
      flesh-and-blood human beings with particular viewpoints arising not only
      from their religious/metaphysical conditions but also their social location,
      economic circumstances, education experience, temperament and a whole host
      of other factors. If a South American, African or Asian scholar comes up
      with a different perspective on the HJ it might have as much to do with her
      coming from a very different environment as to a particular set of
      metaphysical/theological convictions (indeed, those very convictions will in
      part have been shaped by the differences in life-experience I'm talking
      about).

      Indeed, I'm even struck by how some of the presuppositions of this debate
      look rather different from my British perspective; one senses, for example,
      a reaction against a particular kind of religious fundamentalism that simply
      isn't an issue on this side of the pond, (that's not to say it doesn't
      exist, but it's not seen as anything like the same kind of issue, because
      over here it has no obvious political consequences outside beyond purely
      ecclesiastical politics). From my (obviously partial) British perspective,
      the North American concern over religious vs secular scholarship thus looks
      curiously brittle. That is in no way to wish to exclude the contributions of
      North American secular scholarship to questions about the HJ, but it is to
      be sensitive to anything that starts to look like a claim that this North
      American secular academic perspective is somehow to be privileged as *the*
      standard of objective neutral impartiality (and again, I emphasize my
      recognition that neither Steve nor Mike have claimed this, nor is it to
      impugn the logic of many of the arguments they have advanced; I'm simply
      pointing to a danger that seems to be lurking under the surface of the
      discussion).

      [Steve]
      > I'm sure neither of us would assert
      > that it is necessarily the case that a Christian Scholar could not
      > possibly think in a completely secular manner. But we might wonder
      > why he would want to concede the truth of the secular view, when in
      > fact he holds another view altogether.

      There may be a danger in lumping all Christian Scholars together; indeed,
      aren't all of us (not least myself) in danger of falling into some kind of
      essentialist fallacy here, by reifying 'secular scholarship' and 'Christian
      scholarship' as two distinct kinds of substance with particular essences
      that can be compared and contrasted, something I've been trying to challenge
      here by pointing to other factors that may be just as important in a
      scholar's subjectivity. Of course I accept it can be virtually impossible to
      conduct discussions without some kind of generalizations, but every now and
      again it's worth checking that the presuppositions behind the
      generalizations aren't leading anyone astray.

      What does 'not thinking in a completely secular manner' entail? Does it mean
      that the Christian is committed to a particular take on physics, mathematics
      or biology? (Again, the attempts by some North American religious
      reactionaries to oust Darwinism in favour of 'Creation Science' may give you
      a different take on the last of those from that which would occur most
      naturally to me). To be sure, history is not natural science, but is my
      religious identity any more a part of subjectivity than, say, my national
      identity in considering the viewpoint from which I'm likely to view a whole
      raft of historical questions.

      My answer to your point, which is clearly a bit different from Brian's, is
      that I don't see how religious faith can legitimately decide questions of
      historical fact any more than it can decide questions of scientific fact. I
      thus see no more inconsistency in adopting a 'secular' methodology for
      history than I would for mathematics or physics. The difference with history
      is that the notion of 'historical fact' is so much more problematic, and so
      much more bound up with the issue of interpretation, which inevitably
      involves more than an element of subjective judgement. But since this is so
      of *anyone's* interpretation it is illegitimate to assert that the
      interpretation of a secular scholar is automatically and ipso facto more
      'objective'. This is simply a disguised form of cultural imperialism.

      I happen to differ with Brian on the limits on what interpretation can
      achieve - I have grave doubts that one can interpret an anomaly into
      existence, for example. Besides, as I think Brian also agrees, if one is
      doing history one is doing history; in the modern world that implies a
      'secular' methodology because history is concerned with the activities of
      human beings and explanations in terms of human motivations, human social
      and economic structures and so forth. To restrict oneself to a secular
      methodology in that sense is to accept that history is the study of the
      human, not the divine; which also provides common ground for study with
      people who take different religious views.

      > I'm sure neither of us would assert
      > that it is necessarily the case that a Christian Scholar could not
      > possibly think in a completely secular manner. But we might wonder
      > why he would want to concede the truth of the secular view, when in
      > fact he holds another view altogether.

      Unlike everyone else round here I continue to insist on the difference
      between miracle and anomaly. Miracle is primarily a theological concept,
      since it presupposes the existence of God. An atheist is thus necessarily
      committed to belief in the impossibility of miracles. But scholars of all
      stamp can agree to the historical study of what other people have considered
      to be miracles, and 'miracle' might be used as a shorthand way of referring
      to this. Thus, when I'm talking or writing about the HJ and refer to the
      possibility of his miracles, what I have in mind is whether he did things
      that other people in the first century took to be miracles. It is neither a
      necessary nor a sufficient condition of being a miracle in this sense that
      an event be a violation of the laws of nature.

      For this reason I also use the term 'anomaly' (which is not simply a kind of
      weak synonym for 'miracle' as Brian seemed to suppose, but a concept I'm
      trying carefully to distinguish from that of miracle). As a rough
      definition, an anomaly is an event that would constitute a breach of the
      laws of nature. This is intended as a purely naturalistic definition in that
      no assumption is made about divine causation or religious significance.
      As a slightly less rought definition one might distinguish:

      a) A 'soft' anomaly - an event for which the current state of scientific
      knowledge appears to have no adequate explanation (e.g. reports of
      telepathy, precognition or water-divining).

      b) A 'hard' anomaly - an event which would actively defy current scientific
      theory (e.g. a gross violation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics).

      I grant that my distinction between (a) and (b) is a bit rough and ready,
      and that scientfically trained people may be able to point out that examples
      that I've put in (a) really belong in (b) [e.g. because telepathic
      communication of information would have entropic consequences for the brains
      involved].

      The first thing to point out is that the possibility of either (a) or (b)
      occurring is not logically dependent on the existence of God. If we had good
      cause to suppose that events of type (a) and (b) happened, the proper
      response would be not to conclude "Ah, here's empirical proof for the
      existence of God" but "the universe has turned out to be a bit odder than we
      thought; perhaps we should start rethinking some of our scientific
      theories". For example, whatever attitude one takes towards the paranormal,
      I think it would be simply a logical (and theological) mistake to equate it
      with the spiritual.

      Moreover, the occurrence of events of type (a) and (b) is a purely empirical
      question open (in principle) to purely empirical modes of investigation; one
      would simply need to work out what conditions would need to be fulfilled
      into order to establish that a report of a type (a) or (b) event was
      reliable. It is true that some (maybe many) religiously-minded people may be
      more credulous with regard to such events if they possess perceived
      religious significance (which they need not). It is equally true that some
      (maybe many) thoroughly secularised people may be more credulous towards
      them if they perceive them as making life more exciting (one doesn't need to
      be a Christian to believe in UFOs, does one?). To me it is also true (as
      I've pointed out several times now), that no ancient text could meet the
      conditions for establishing even the reasonable probability of a type (b)
      event, and probably not a type (a) event either, unless one had become
      sufficiently convinced on other grounds that this kind of type (a) event was
      well attested by modern observers. But, I emphasize again, the occurrence of
      a type (a) or (b) event may be of no religious significance whatsoever, and
      should thus not automatically be labelled a 'miracle'. IMHO no atheists need
      abandon their atheism simply because anomalies were found to have occurred:
      perhaps they were due to advanced alien technology, or perhaps they show
      that scientific theory needs to be revised, or perhaps they demonstrate that
      we are simply mistaken in supposing that the human mind is able to
      comprehend all of physical reality; one could hold any of these positions
      while remaining a staunch atheist.

      I thus think it important to distinguish establishing the occurrence of a
      miracle from establishing that of an anomaly. The latter is not - even when
      the purported miracle would also constitute an anomaly. Thus, even if it
      were possible to establish by critical historical argument that Jesus really
      had walked on water, turned water into wine, and fed five thousand people
      with five bread rolls, this argument would only establish the occurrence of
      certain anomalies, not miracles; to judge that these events were miracles
      would be to move to a different plain of discourse altogether (though it
      would, of course, be perfectly possible for the historian qua historian to
      judge that these anomalies were *perceived* as miracles at the time).

      [Steve]
      > Or is this what leads to the idea that while faith requires a commitment
      to the
      > possibility of miracles secular scholarly work reveals that we cannot
      claim that
      > a paricular miracle ever happened.

      As I hope I've now made clear I think that this perhaps needs to be
      rephrased in terms of miracle and/or anomaly to be able to answer the point.
      Secular scholarship cannot discuss 'miracle' (except as a term denoting the
      beliefs of the historical subjects being studied) since 'miracle' is simply
      not an historical category. Whether secular scholarship can admit the
      different concept of 'anomaly' is a different matter, since as I've tried to
      define it, it's a purely secular, imminent, naturalistic, this-worldly
      concept. My own view is that (a) I don't think there's a valid metaphysical
      argument, even on purely naturalistic premises, that can validly rule out
      the possibility of anomaly a prior (this is simply a recognition of the
      force of Hume's argument about causation and induction); (b) nevertheless,
      the exclusion of anomaly is a necessary presupposition of natural science
      (perhaps this goes back to Kant's answer to Hume); (c) it may be, therefore,
      that the exclusion of anomaly is necessary as a kind of synthetic a priori
      presupposition of historical study as well (but here I'm not so sure, since
      it also seems to me that, faced with sufficient evidence, one would be
      forced to admit that an anomaly had occurred).

      So the best answer I can give Steve right now, having reinterpreted his
      point in my terms is:

      (a) One (whether a religious or a secular 'one') should perhaps be open to
      the possibility of anomaly as part of a general policy of being open to what
      the evidence demands; the reverse would be to hold that "I shall not believe
      in an anomaly no matter what the evidence", and I'm not sure than can be
      sustained.

      (b) Nevertheless, in practice it is right to treat all reports of anomaly
      with deep suspicion and scepticism, since the admission of an anomaly would
      threaten to undermine a synthetic a priori principle one generally relied
      upon. In practice, then, one will wish to set a very high standard of
      evidence before the possibility of anomaly can be entertained, which means
      that few, if any, putative anomalies will meet the test.

      I've tried to formulate (a) and (b) in ways that can form common ground
      between secular and believing scholars, but I'm well aware they may only
      seem compelling from the point of view of my own intellectual development,
      so they (along with anything else I've said) can only have the status of a
      proposal.

      But to complete my response to Steve's point, the believing scholar may well
      be open to the possibility of miracle, but this is a judgement of a
      different order that should IMHO be decoupled from judgements about the
      anomalous nature of an event (though one would not call it a 'miracle'
      unless it were at least strikingly surprising, but no one will deny that
      strikingly surprising events may occur). Here, I think, is where I differ
      from Brian. Note also that on this proposal, the believing scholar's
      openness to miracle need not translate into giving an unduly favourable
      judgement on a purported anomaly, which is the strictly historical question.
      To assert that something is a miracle is to make a judgement on its
      religious/theological significance, which is not the business of a historian
      in her/his capacity as historian. To require that something be an anomaly
      before accepting it as a miracle may, IHMO, be a theological mistake, but
      that is a completely separate issue, and one on which not all Christians
      will agree.

      [Steve]
      > Would this be like saying that while one is committed to the view
      > that Jesus is Christ and God, that being Christ and God had no
      > knowable effect whatsoever on his life? I don't think that this is
      > coherent. But I do think that somne people seem to think it is.

      This almost sounds like you're coming from a logical positivist standpoint -
      a statement is only meaningful if it susceptible to empirical verification
      conceived in terms of natural science. That may not be your view, of course,
      but it's certainly a view a religious believer will not share (although I
      hardly think one need be a religious believer to dispute it). Of course it
      depends what you mean by 'knowable effect'. Does that mean an effect that we
      can know now through the process of critical historical reconstruction? If
      so, then I must simply disagree with your notion of coherence. Or does it
      mean the rather different view that if it were possible to reconstruct an HJ
      violently at odds with Christian belief, the Christian doctrine of the
      Incarnation would be undermined? If you mean the latter then I'd agree with
      you, though I might have different views on what constituted being
      'violently at odds' (e.g. I would consider it 'violently at odds' with the
      Christian doctrine of the Incarnation for Jesus to have been a petty thief,
      murderer, rapist and bandit, but not at all at odds for him not to have
      turned water into wine; indeed, it may be the relative powerlessness of
      Jesus that's the most theologically significant thing about the incarnation,
      but of course that leads off into a totally different discussion).

      I don't know whether I've actually managed to clarify anything in this long
      attempt to suggest that finding a common ground shouldn't be that
      problematic. I'll just finish with a final question: from my eccentric
      British perspective it seems to me that this angst about a possible parting
      of the ways between secular and religious NT scholarship is a particularly
      North American concern; is this the case, and, if so, does that tell us
      anything? It's not that such issues don't arise here, it's that the frontier
      doesn't run along that particular divide and doesn't seem to exercise people
      so much in quite the same way (the divide, if it can be so described, is
      more between liberal Christians and secular humanists on the one hand, and
      religious conservatives on the other, but even then I'd say it wasn't so
      sharply demarcated, and in the main we can mostly agree to disagree and
      carry on working together).

      Best wishes,

      Eric
      ----------------------------------
      Eric Eve
      Harris Manchester College, Oxford











      -------------------------------
      Dr Eric Eve
      Harris Manchester College
      Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TD
      Tel: 01865 281473
    • Brian Trafford
      ... {Snip detailed explanation of the difference Eric means when, and why, he uses anomaly instead of miracle to describe specific event as described in
      Message 2 of 12 , Aug 1, 2003
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        --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, "Eric Eve" <eric.eve@h...> wrote:
        {Snip detailed explanation of the difference Eric means when, and
        why, he uses "anomaly" instead of "miracle" to describe specific
        event as described in history}

        Thank you for this Eric, I now have a much better understanding of
        where you are coming from on this question, and find myself in
        general agreement with much of what you said. Perhaps the
        word "miracle" carries too much baggage to be used in historical
        critical discussions, and should be replaced by something else like
        anomaly, especially as acceptance of the latter does not necessitate
        acceptance of the existence of the supernatural, and can remain well
        within the realm of scientific and historical inquiry.

        (One thinks of all the shocking new scientific discoveries that keep
        popping up now and then, forcing science to significantly modify its
        theories and explanations for how the universe actually works, to see
        how anomalies change our perception of the world on a regular basis).

        Peace,

        Brian Trafford
        Calgary, AB, Canada
      • Eric Eve
        ... Great! I m glad I ve at last succeeded in making myself clear to somebody. ... Yes, though I think the anomalies that force change in scientific theory
        Message 3 of 12 , Aug 1, 2003
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          Brian Trafford wrote:

          > Thank you for this Eric, I now have a much better understanding of
          > where you are coming from on this question, and find myself in
          > general agreement with much of what you said. Perhaps the
          > word "miracle" carries too much baggage to be used in historical
          > critical discussions, and should be replaced by something else like
          > anomaly, especially as acceptance of the latter does not necessitate
          > acceptance of the existence of the supernatural, and can remain well
          > within the realm of scientific and historical inquiry.

          Great! I'm glad I've at last succeeded in making myself clear to somebody.

          > (One thinks of all the shocking new scientific discoveries that keep
          > popping up now and then, forcing science to significantly modify its
          > theories and explanations for how the universe actually works, to see
          > how anomalies change our perception of the world on a regular basis).

          Yes, though I think the anomalies that force change in scientific theory
          tend to take the form of general contradictions in the current model rather
          than specific events, don't they? (E.g. on the classical model of the atom,
          an electon orbiting a nucleus ought to radiate electromagnetic energy, so
          according to the law of conservation of energy the orbit ought rapidly to
          decay causing the electron to fall into the nucleus, meaning atoms on the
          classical model ought not to exist - oops, let's rethink this - ah, quantum
          mechanics!). But you raise an important general point, that it is really
          only meaningful to talk about anomaly in relation to a particular set of
          theories (which are in principle always revisable). That's why I think one
          should be wary of definitions of anomaly (let alone miracle) that use an
          expression such as 'violations of the laws of nature', unless one makes it
          very clear in what sense the term 'laws of nature' is being employed. To
          rule out an anomaly because it conflicts with current scientific
          understanding risks supposing that scientific understanding is now complete;
          to define anomaly relative not to current understanding but to the laws of
          nature 'as they really are' raises the double problem (a) that unless we
          know the laws of nature 'as they really are' we cannot identify an anomaly;
          and (b) that if we're not careful the statement 'anomalies cannot happen'
          collapses into the tautology 'what is impossible is impossible'.

          That said, I suspect most working scientists would have some perception of
          what types of anomaly could not be fitted into any conceivable revision of
          the scientific theory that would not make the entire edifice of natural
          science come crashing down around our ears. This is partly due, I think, to
          the way that scientific understanding increasingly comes to form an
          interlocking series of theories that form a fairly tight fit; I have some
          recollection from my reading of popular science that there are very few ways
          that quantum mechanics can be formulated without mathematical
          inconsistencies: thus it is either right, or completely wrong: it can't
          simply be tweaked to fit new data. Moreover, I think this sense of what kind
          of revisions to natural science can be accommodated without bringing the
          whole structure crashing down (which neither relativity nor quantum
          mechanics have done, for example) would lead one to be fairly confident in
          classifying certain events as hard anomalies that are likely to remain hard
          anomalies under any feasible upheavals in modern science (part of the reason
          for the distinction between hard and soft anomalies is to allow for the
          possibility that the soft sort may simply find themselves accommodated under
          a new scientific paradigm). Thus, it is probably safe to assume that no
          feasible revolution in scientific understanding is going to make it any less
          of an anomaly to walk on water or feed five thousand people with five bread
          rolls. Even allowing that our scientific understanding is corrigible, it
          thus seems a sound epistemological principle to suggest that we can't allow
          the possibility of anomalies of this sort without sawing off the branch of
          rational judgement on which we're trying to sit. Even if it should turn out
          from the perspective of the science of the future that we were wrong in our
          judgements of what could feasibly be incorporated into scientific theory, it
          remains the best we can do in the present.

          This is not to rule out the possibility that the universe may be a weirder
          place than we often like to imagine, but here two opposite considerations
          seem to me to come into play:

          (1) On the one hand, commitment to a particular scientific view, or a
          particular rationalist perspective, could well rule out evidence of strange
          phenomena that do not fit the current paradigm; it is very easy for us
          simply to filter out what does not fit into our worldview;

          (2) On the other hand, the human love of the wondrous, the bizarre, and the
          spectacular, the human propensity for both credulity and fraud, suggest that
          one would be wise to treat anecdotal evidence of the weird and wonderful
          with caution, if not downright scepticism (gosh, I think I'm starting to
          sound like Hume here!).

          Thus the human capacity for self-deception cuts both ways. My own
          temperamental inclination in practice is to lean towards the scepticism
          suggested by (2), but I think it possible that some cases may yet turn out
          to fall under (1), though I would not expect anything in the hard anomaly
          category to do so. This thus leaves some scope for individual judgement on
          the plausibility of strange things narrated in ancient texts, while also
          providing the critic with a point at which s/he can say "Here I draw the
          line; beyond here I shall not admit that a literal intepretation of the text
          can be sustained as a report of an actual historical event; as a hard
          anomaly it must be ruled out." Of course another question, the answer to
          which does not strike me as totally obvious, is how far Mark, say, intended
          his reports of hard anomalies to be taken literally (it seems to me that
          Mark 4-8 works pretty hard to get the reader to see a symbolic meaning
          behind the sea and feeding miracles, but that does not exclude the
          possibility that Mark could have viewed them as actual events as well - but
          that will have to be a topic for another essay when I get round to writing
          it).

          Best wishes,

          Eric
        • Mike Grondin
          Eric- Thanks for putting me in Steve s company. Although I don t know him personally, we ve had a long history of correspondence relative to the Gospel of
          Message 4 of 12 , Aug 2, 2003
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            Eric-

            Thanks for putting me in Steve's company. Although I don't know
            him personally, we've had a long history of correspondence relative
            to the Gospel of Thomas, and I find that our intuitions tend to
            coincide - probably because he's a top-notch logical analyst, in
            addition to everything else (scholar, humorist, provocateur?)

            I also love the way you Brits (other than Tom Wright) typically
            analyze problems. (I actually have some English blood myself - on
            my mother-nee-Tyler's side - which probably explains it.)

            Alas, not enough time at the present to adequately respond to even
            one of the interesting comments in your note. What I would like to
            ask, however, if you don't mind, is that you address yourself
            specifically to an issue which lies at the beginning of this series
            of threads, and even long before that. You refer to:

            > ... this (your) long attempt to suggest that finding a common
            > ground shouldn't be that problematic.

            But case in point: Steve and others (including myself) have
            virtually no doubt that the gospels contain a significant amount
            of authorial invention. Brian, on the other hand, has argued long
            and hard (if I understand him aright) that there's no reason to
            suppose that the authors didn't believe everything they wrote to
            be literally true. (And if so, of course, there couldn't be any
            significant amount of authorial invention.) We've had extended
            discussions on this before and gotten nowhere. Where do you think
            common ground might be found on this particular issue?

            Thanks,
            Mike G.
          • Eric Eve
            ... Well, I suppose this depends on what we mean by common ground here; I take it to mean a sufficient common basis to allow conversation/debate to be
            Message 5 of 12 , Aug 2, 2003
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              Mike Grondin asks:

              > But case in point: Steve and others (including myself) have
              > virtually no doubt that the gospels contain a significant amount
              > of authorial invention. Brian, on the other hand, has argued long
              > and hard (if I understand him aright) that there's no reason to
              > suppose that the authors didn't believe everything they wrote to
              > be literally true. (And if so, of course, there couldn't be any
              > significant amount of authorial invention.) We've had extended
              > discussions on this before and gotten nowhere. Where do you think
              > common ground might be found on this particular issue?

              Well, I suppose this depends on what we mean by 'common ground' here; I take
              it to mean a sufficient common basis to allow conversation/debate to be
              meaningful. I assume that neither Steve nor yourself operate with the belief
              of a 'significant amount of authorial invention' as some kind of a prior
              dogmatic belief, but rather as a consequence of your study of the Gospels;
              IOW it would be something that you would in principle be prepared to give
              reasons for, not merely to assert. If Brian has "argued long and hard...
              that that there's no reason to suppose that the authors didn't believe
              everything they wrote to be literally true"* then he presumably also
              recognizes the need to argue for his position. Thus, a first condition for
              common ground in this situation, recognizing that the burden of proof lies
              on whoever wants to make an assertion, could in principle be met. A further
              condition would be that both sides sufficiently agree on what constitutes
              the proper grounds and methods of arguments (otherwise they'll simply be
              talking past each other), but one would hope that should be possible among
              scholars.

              'Common ground' surely does not mean that all parties have to agree in their
              conclusions, or else either no one would ever be allowed to dissent from the
              'official view', or we'd have to split into 100 different scholarly groups
              with own particular blends of conclusions; I'm quite sure neither of these
              is what you have in mind!

              (*BTW, is it necessarily so of an ancient author, perhaps one believing
              himself to be writing under the influence of the Holy Spirit, that 'he made
              x up' and 'he believed x to be literally true' are absolutely incompatible
              statements? I don't want to push the point since I'm personally less than
              convinced that 'literal truth' was the primary concern of the Evangelists in
              everything they wrote, it's just that it occurred to me when I was quoting
              your phrase).

              Best wishes,

              Eric

              -------------------------------
              Dr Eric Eve
              Harris Manchester College
              Mansfield Road, Oxford, OX1 3TD
              Tel: 01865 281473
            • Mike Grondin
              ... No, of course not. But if one gets a feeling that the conclusions of the other party are presuppositions instead of conclusions, and that they re not
              Message 6 of 12 , Aug 2, 2003
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                --- Eric Eve wrote:
                > 'Common ground' surely does not mean that all parties have to
                > agree in their conclusions, or else either no one would ever be
                > allowed to dissent from the 'official view', or we'd have to split
                > into 100 different scholarly groups with own particular blends of
                > conclusions; I'm quite sure neither of these is what you have in
                > mind!

                No, of course not. But if one gets a feeling that the conclusions
                of the other party are presuppositions instead of conclusions, and
                that they're not really open to serious question, then what you
                call 'common ground' turns into quicksand. I would put it in terms
                of the conditions for scholarly discourse, and I would think that
                one such condition - a necessary one - is what's called "good
                faith". What this demands, IMO, is that all parties be prepared to
                provide rational and evidentiary support for their positions - or
                at least admit that belief X is not open to question for them. I
                guess it's an issue of trust. Without a sense that the other party
                is acting in good faith, one perceives reasons as rationalizations,
                and the possibility of fruitful discourse quickly disappears.

                > (*BTW, is it necessarily so of an ancient author, perhaps one
                > believing himself to be writing under the influence of the Holy
                > Spirit, that 'he made x up' and 'he believed x to be literally
                > true' are absolutely incompatible statements? I don't want to
                > push the point since I'm personally less than convinced that
                > 'literal truth' was the primary concern of the Evangelists in
                > everything they wrote...

                Oh, no, I don't see how there can be any doubt that the primary
                concern of the Evangelists wasn't that. But now you bring up an
                interesting point that probably bears further discussion. Suppose
                I believe that the HS is revealing to me an event or event-detail
                hitherto unknown - say, the words that Jesus was supposed to have
                written in the sand. Firstly, it seems that I can't fail to know
                that it's *new*. Secondly, however, it seems that I *can* fail to
                know that *I* invented it - since I'm fooling myself into believing
                that I'm the recipient of supernatual information at that point.
                Nor would I even think of supposing that those forces might be evil
                forces, or that a good spirit might seek to implant untruths in me
                in order to "advance the faith". So, yes, it does seem that I can
                fool myself into believing that what is in fact my own creation
                corresponds to something that really happened. I don't think that's
                the way the Evangelists operated, however, nor does it seem likely
                that leaving it open whether or not the Evangelists believed their
                story innovations to have really happened would satisfy someone who
                wanted to claim that there wasn't any significant degree of
                authorial invention at all.

                Regards,
                Mike Grondin
                Mt. Clemens, MI
              • leon santiago
                Gordon Raynal wrote:
                Message 7 of 12 , Aug 8, 2003
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                  Gordon Raynal wrote:

                  <<*** . . . wonder storie(s) . . . . primarily been
                  defended and attacked on the basis of "did it actually
                  happen?" as the basis for searching out truths/ "the
                  point(s)" of such stories.) How strange and how
                  fundamentally sad. I dare say if folks were to pick
                  up the Odyssey they don't start dissing Homer for his
                  imagination and don't start searching out questions of
                  truth on the basis of asking questions about whether
                  the wonder filled stories he tells are rooted in
                  "facts". Likewise when reading Shakespeare ("Do
                  ghosts really exist and can they talk?" from Hamlet,
                  for example).... and on to watching this summer's
                  "blockbuster movies." (I didn't hear anyone come out
                  of the theatre from watching "Terminator 3" going
                  "What a deceitful movie 'cause there really can't be
                  liquid robotic computers who can turn their appendages
                  into different killer machines at whim!"). ***>>

                  Yes, Gordon . . . but then, no one ever told me that I
                  was going to spend eternity in an agonizing place if I
                  didn't believe that those liquid robotic computers
                  were real. Or that such belief was the ONLY way to
                  obtain salvation from such a fate. Your analogy seems
                  inappropriate at best and mocking at worst. I agree
                  with you that the true value of these stories
                  transcends their historicity, and that they belong
                  among the great mythological traditions of the world
                  as such.

                  Jonah and the great fish, Moses climbing up Sinai,
                  great stories conveying timeless and meaningful
                  messages, yes . . .

                  But the fact is that the Christianity that we have
                  inherited is a religion founded on the belief in
                  certain historical events that were reported to have
                  occurred at a certain place and time. Moreover, these
                  things were claimed to have occurred once and ONLY
                  once in history. As historical events, are they not
                  subject to our examination by current historical
                  methods? I don't think you should dismiss this as
                  folly. It must be done, precisely so that we can view
                  the stories in their proper mythological context once
                  the gloss of veneration has been bracketed.


                  Who was it that said that extraordinary claims require
                  extraordinary evidence? Was it Schweitzer? (pardon the
                  paraphrase).

                  peace

                  le�n santiago
                  tempe, az



                  =====
                  I like roots but I prefer fruits.
                  Caetano Veloso

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                • kirby@earthlink.net
                  My first question is, has anyone attempted to catalogue and cross- reference the Jesuine sayings that seem to cohere with other sayings as well as those
                  Message 8 of 12 , Aug 8, 2003
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                    My first question is, has anyone attempted to catalogue and cross-
                    reference the Jesuine sayings that seem to "cohere with" other
                    sayings as well as those Jesuine sayings that seem to be "in
                    tension with" other sayings (or actions) in the gospels?

                    Anticipating a negative answer, my second question is, what sort
                    of resources could I turn to in building such a cross-referenced
                    database? (Besides a Bible and a super memory!)

                    My vaguely conceived goal is something like Crossan's appendix,
                    but with the emphasis on the criterion of coherence rather than the
                    criterion of multiple attestation, and then to try to do something
                    with the data.

                    best,
                    Peter Kirby
                  • Bob Schacht
                    ... Peter, I suppose you ll have to start out by defining what cohere with and be in tension with mean. If you don t, you ll get a stew of such diverse
                    Message 9 of 12 , Aug 8, 2003
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                      At 12:40 PM 8/8/2003 -0800, kirby@... wrote:
                      >My first question is, has anyone attempted to catalogue and cross-
                      >reference the Jesuine sayings that seem to "cohere with" other
                      >sayings as well as those Jesuine sayings that seem to be "in
                      >tension with" other sayings (or actions) in the gospels?
                      >
                      >Anticipating a negative answer, my second question is, what sort
                      >of resources could I turn to in building such a cross-referenced
                      >database? (Besides a Bible and a super memory!)
                      >
                      >My vaguely conceived goal is something like Crossan's appendix,
                      >but with the emphasis on the criterion of coherence rather than the
                      >criterion of multiple attestation, and then to try to do something
                      >with the data.
                      >
                      >best,
                      >Peter Kirby

                      Peter,
                      I suppose you'll have to start out by defining what "cohere with" and "be
                      in tension with" mean.
                      If you don't, you'll get a stew of such diverse composition that no one can
                      agree on what it means.
                      If you do: Others will argue with whatever definition you come up with, but
                      at least we'll know what you are looking for.

                      Bob
                    • kirby@earthlink.net
                      ... I think that the meaning is the kind of stuff the same person is likely to say and the kind of stuff the same person is unlikely to say, assuming that
                      Message 10 of 12 , Aug 8, 2003
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                        On 8 Aug 2003, at 14:25, Bob Schacht wrote:

                        > At 12:40 PM 8/8/2003 -0800, kirby@... wrote:
                        > >My first question is, has anyone attempted to catalogue and cross-
                        > >reference the Jesuine sayings that seem to "cohere with" other
                        > >sayings as well as those Jesuine sayings that seem to be "in
                        > >tension with" other sayings (or actions) in the gospels?
                        > >
                        > >Anticipating a negative answer, my second question is, what sort
                        > >of resources could I turn to in building such a cross-referenced
                        > >database? (Besides a Bible and a super memory!)
                        > >
                        > >My vaguely conceived goal is something like Crossan's appendix,
                        > >but with the emphasis on the criterion of coherence rather than the
                        > >criterion of multiple attestation, and then to try to do something
                        > >with the data.
                        > >
                        > >best,
                        > >Peter Kirby
                        >
                        > Peter,
                        > I suppose you'll have to start out by defining what "cohere with" and "be
                        > in tension with" mean.
                        > If you don't, you'll get a stew of such diverse composition that no one can
                        > agree on what it means.
                        > If you do: Others will argue with whatever definition you come up with, but
                        > at least we'll know what you are looking for.

                        I think that the meaning is "the kind of stuff the same person is
                        likely to say" and "the kind of stuff the same person is unlikely to
                        say," assuming that the person is consistent.

                        What I am thinking about is a sliding scale, something like from 1
                        to 5, with 5 being two verses saying virtually the same thing -- for
                        example, 1 Cor 7:10-11 and Mark 10:11-12 -- and with 1 being two
                        verses that are practically in contradiction -- for example, the
                        medieval Gospel of Barnabas having J say "I am not the Messiah"
                        and John 17:3 having J refer to himself as "Jesus Messiah," the
                        one sent by God (I hope I've picked clear and relatively
                        uncontroversial verses). Then a value of 4 would apply to two
                        verses that, for example, both indicate a feasting/non-fasting
                        lifestyle, while a value of 2 would apply to two verses that can be
                        harmonized but not without effort (famously, the kingdom is here
                        now, or the kingdom is yet to come). The value of 3 would be
                        reserved for two verses that have no conceptual relation.

                        Structurally, one would have a table with all items corresponding to
                        all items, with a lot of 3's but with other values to show the
                        coherencies and tensions perceived in the materials. Another way
                        to look at it would be as an annotated translation with footnotes to
                        all the other verses that are in the relationship of 1, 2, 4, or 5.

                        I hope that this helps to clarify the kind of database that I would
                        like to build, perhaps with help. I could use references to books
                        that do part of the work or would otherwise help.

                        best,
                        Peter Kirby
                      • townsendgm
                        ... snip ... Guy Townsend responds: Actually, it was Carl Sagan. Guy Townsend
                        Message 11 of 12 , Aug 8, 2003
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                          --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, leon santiago
                          <taino_leon@y...> wrote:
                          >
                          snip

                          > Who was it that said that extraordinary claims require
                          > extraordinary evidence? Was it Schweitzer? (pardon the
                          > paraphrase).
                          >
                          Guy Townsend responds:

                          Actually, it was Carl Sagan.

                          Guy Townsend
                        • Rich Griese
                          Dear Peter, the way I would approach it is to create a database of the texts you are speaking with. Anyone with database experience could help you. If you then
                          Message 12 of 12 , Aug 13, 2003
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                            Dear Peter,

                            the way I would approach it is to create a database of the texts you
                            are speaking with. Anyone with database experience could help you.

                            If you then learn SQL you can search and sort things until the cows
                            come home.

                            AND the ability to assign attributes to any data element is very useful.

                            What would be my recommendation. But I think it sounds like a great
                            project. I had tried to enthuse Dr Robert Price of the Jesus Seminar of
                            this a few years ago in San Jose at a convention a few years ago.

                            I'm sure people have done such a thing. It would amaze me if there were
                            not groups out there.

                            Cheers! Ricco
                            RichGriese@...
                            ///////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////////
                            /////////////
                            On Friday, August 8, 2003, at 01:40 PM, kirby@... wrote:
                            > My first question is, has anyone attempted to catalogue and cross-
                            > reference the Jesuine sayings that seem to "cohere with" other
                            > sayings as well as those Jesuine sayings that seem to be "in
                            > tension with" other sayings (or actions) in the gospels?
                            >
                            > Anticipating a negative answer, my second question is, what sort
                            > of resources could I turn to in building such a cross-referenced
                            > database?  (Besides a Bible and a super memory!)
                            >
                            > My vaguely conceived goal is something like Crossan's appendix,
                            > but with the emphasis on the criterion of coherence rather than the
                            > criterion of multiple attestation, and then to try to do something
                            > with the data.
                            >
                            > best,
                            > Peter Kirby
                            >
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