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Asking questions (Mark 8)

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  • Bob Schacht
    I interrupt the interesting and helpful exchange between Ken Olson and Stephen Carlson with this change of pace: A traditional joke goes that a Christian asks
    Message 1 of 5 , Jul 30, 2004
      I interrupt the interesting and helpful exchange between Ken Olson and
      Stephen Carlson with this change of pace:

      A traditional joke goes that a Christian asks a Jew, Why do Jews always
      respond to a question by asking a question? The Jew answers, Why not?

      In a non-academic context, David Arch makes a case
      http://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/areas/biblestudies/articles/040602.html
      that this is an intentional part of Jesus' style, based on Mark 8 alone,
      finding 8 types of questions:

      1. Answering with Questions (Mark 8:5)

      2. Gathering Data (Mark 8:5, 19-21)

      3. Rhetorical questions (Mark 8:12)

      4. Communicating Passion by asking a series of rhetorical questions without
      waiting for an answer (Mark 8:17-18)

      5. Correcting (Mark 8:21)

      6. Seeking Feedback (Mark 8:23)

      7. Encouraging Personal Application (Mark 8:27-29)

      8. Soul Searching (Mark 8:36-37)
      Mark 8:36-37: "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet
      forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?"

      Do you think that these kinds of questions were a special attribute of the
      historical Jesus, or an unremarkable aspect of normal adult male Jewish
      conversational style of that time and place, or an artifact of the author
      of the gospel?

      Bob Schacht
      Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
      Northern Arizona University
      Flagstaff, AZ

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Eric Eve
      ... I suspect it may have been the second of these, which may in turn be a more general aspect of an oral culture. I ve just been reading Walter Ong s _Orality
      Message 2 of 5 , Aug 2, 2004
        Bob Schacht wrote:

        > Do you think that these kinds of questions were a special attribute
        > of the historical Jesus, or an unremarkable aspect of normal adult
        > male Jewish conversational style of that time and place, or an artifact
        > of the author of the gospel?

        I suspect it may have been the second of these, which may in turn be a more
        general aspect of an oral culture. I've just been reading Walter Ong's
        _Orality and Literacy_ (New Accents; New York: Routledge, 2002; originally
        published Methuen, 1982) and came across this passage on p. 68:

        "In oral cultures a request for information is commonly interpreted
        interactively..., as agonistic, and instead of being really answered, is
        frequently parried. An illuminating story is told of a visitor in County
        Cork, Ireland, an especially oral region in a country which in every region
        preserves massive residual orality. The visitor saw a Corkman leaning
        against the post office wall next to the Corkman's shoulder and asked, 'Is
        this the post office?' The Corkman was not taken in. He looked at his
        questioner quietly and with great concern: ''Twouldn't be a postage stamp
        you were lookin', for would it?' He treated the enquiry not as a request for
        information but as something the enquirer was doing to him. So he did
        something in turn to the enquirer to see what would happen. All natives of
        Cork, according to the mythology, treat all questions this way. Always
        answer a question by asking another. Never let down your oral guard."

        To be sure, this may not immediately address *every* type of question you
        identified from Mark 8, but my best guess is that the place to start is by
        interpreting questions and responses against the background of the challenge
        and response pattern in an oral, agonistic culture rather than as the
        stylistic pecularity of an individual.

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




        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Loren Rosson
        ... I agree with Eric; various Context Group members have argued that counterquestions and rhetorical questions were part of Jesus hostile strategy in dealing
        Message 3 of 5 , Aug 2, 2004
          Bob Schacht wrote:

          > > Do you think that these kinds of questions
          > > were a special attribute
          > > of the historical Jesus, or an unremarkable
          > > aspect of normal adult
          > > male Jewish conversational style of that time
          > > and place, or an artifact
          > > of the author of the gospel?

          Eric Eve responded:

          > I suspect it may have been the second of these,
          > which may in turn be a more
          > general aspect of an oral culture.
          > "In oral cultures a request for information is
          > commonly interpreted
          > interactively..., as agonistic...

          I agree with Eric; various Context Group members have
          argued that counterquestions and rhetorical questions
          were part of Jesus' hostile strategy in dealing with
          adversaries, pursuant to the canons of honor-shame.
          Consider the following catalog of challenge-riposte
          scenarios (which I've used before in this list), where
          questions are analogous to scriptural one-upsmanship,
          backhanded compliments, and insults:

          1. The scribes accuse Jesus of blasphemy (Mk.
          2:1-12/Mt. 9:1-8/Lk. 5:17-26)
          Jesus: COUNTER-QUESTIONS

          2. The Pharisees and scribes challenge Jesus for
          eating with outcasts (Mk. 2:15-17/Mt. 9:10-13/Lk.
          5:29-32)
          Jesus: RHETORICAL CLEVERNESS; BACKHANDED COMPLIMENT

          3. The Pharisees challenge Jesus and the disciples for
          not fasting (Mk. 2:18-22/Mt. 9:14-17/Lk. 5:33-39)
          Jesus: COUNTER-QUESTION; RHETORIC; CLEVER APHORISMS

          4. The Pharisees challenge Jesus and the disciples for
          plucking grain on the sabbath (Mk. 2:23-28/Mt.
          12:1-8/Lk. 6:1-5)
          Jesus: COUNTER-QUESTION; CITING TRADITION AGAINST
          TRADITION; CLEVER APHORISM

          5. The Pharisees challenge Jesus for healing a man on
          the sabbath (Mk. 3:1-6/Mt. 12:9-14/Lk. 6:6-11)
          Jesus: HEALING (actions shame louder than words)

          6. The scribes accuse Jesus of being demon-possessed
          (Mk. 3:19b-30)
          Jesus: COUNTER-QUESTION; RHETORIC; INSULT

          7. The Pharisees and scribes challenge Jesus and the
          disciples for eating with unwashed hands (Mk.
          7:1-23/Mt. 15:1-20)
          Jesus: INSULT; CITING TRADITION AGAINST TRADITION

          8. The Pharisees challenge Jesus on the subject of
          divorce (Mk. 10:2-12/Mt. 19:3-9)
          Jesus: COUNTER-QUESTION; CITING TRADITION AGAINST
          TRADITION

          9. The temple authorities and scribes challenge Jesus
          after his prophetic act in the temple (Mk.
          11:27-33/Mt. 21:23-27/Lk. 20:1-8)
          Jesus: COUNTER-QUESTION; BLOW-OFF

          10. The Herodians and Pharisees challenge Jesus on the
          subject of paying taxes to Caesar (Mk. 12:13-17/Mt.
          22:15-22/Lk. 20:20-26)
          Jesus: COUNTER-QUESTION; INSULT; DEMAND;
          COUNTER-QUESTION; CLEVER APHORISM

          In other words, questions like these were unremarakble
          enough as part of one's shaming strategy -- staying on
          top of one's opponent, refusing to concede ground by
          answering questions directly, and upping the ante with
          counterquestions and hostile challenges.

          Loren Rosson III
          Nashua NH
          rossoiii@...





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        • Horace Jeffery Hodges
          Blogger Michael Gilleland quotes Matthew 5.43-46 and then cites 16 Greek sources to support the thesis that in Greek thought it was a commonplace of morality,
          Message 4 of 5 , Sep 29, 2004
            Blogger Michael Gilleland quotes Matthew 5.43-46 and
            then cites 16 Greek sources to support the thesis that
            in Greek thought "it was a commonplace of morality,
            indeed almost the very essence of justice, that one
            should benefit one's friends and harm one's enemies."

            Here's Gilleland's website:

            http://laudatortemporisacti.blogspot.com/

            See the entry "Loving or Hating Enemies" for Tuesday,
            September 28, 2004.

            I have two questions:

            1. Is Gilleland correct that this was a commonplace of
            Greek moral thinking?

            2. If Gilleland is correct, is the passage in Matthew
            5.43-46 referring to Greek moral thinking rather than
            to Biblical moral thought?

            Conversely, are there any passages in Greek moral
            thinking that cohere with the teaching about loving
            one's enemies?

            Jeffery Hodges

            =====
            University Degrees:

            Ph.D., History, U.C. Berkeley
            (Doctoral Thesis: "Food as Synecdoche in John's Gospel and Gnostic Texts")
            M.A., History of Science, U.C. Berkeley
            B.A., English Language and Literature, Baylor University

            Email Address:

            jefferyhodges@...

            Office Address:

            Assistant Professor Horace Jeffery Hodges
            Department of English Language and Literature
            Korea University
            136-701 Anam-dong, Seongbuk-gu
            Seoul
            South Korea

            Home Address:

            Dr. Sun-Ae Hwang and Dr. Horace Jeffery Hodges
            Seo-Dong 125-2
            Shin-Dong-A, Apt. 102-709
            447-710 Kyunggido, Osan-City
            South Korea
          • Peter Kirby
            ... These are quoted via Robert Price (I don t know chapter and verse). A rather nice part of being a Cynic comes when you have to be beaten like an ass, and
            Message 5 of 5 , Sep 29, 2004
              On Wed, 29 Sep 2004 11:49:03 -0700 (PDT), Horace Jeffery Hodges wrote:

              > Conversely, are there any passages in Greek moral
              > thinking that cohere with the teaching about loving
              > one's enemies?

              These are quoted via Robert Price (I don't know chapter and verse).

              A rather nice part of being a Cynic comes when you have to be beaten
              like an ass, and throughout the beating you have to love those who are
              beating you as though you were father or brother to them. (Epictetus)

              How shall I defend myself against my enemy? By being good and kind
              towards him, replied Diogenes. (Gnomologium Vaticanum)

              Someone gets angry with you. Challenge him with kindness in return.
              Enmity immediately tumbles away when one side lets it fall. (Seneca)

              --
              Peter Kirby (Student at Fullerton College, CA)
              Web Site: http://www.peterkirby.com/
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