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[XTalk] Re: Geography Error in Mark 11:1

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  • Bede
    Zeba takes me to task, quite reasonably, but I can only take my chastisement up to a point. My criticism was that NT studies, perhaps more than many other
    Message 1 of 8 , Aug 8, 2004
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      Zeba takes me to task, quite reasonably, but I can only take my
      chastisement up to a point. My criticism was that NT studies,
      perhaps more than many other areas of academic enquiry, does zero
      into the smallest details and looks for significance in them that
      probably (IMHO) does not exist.

      Zeb says (perhaps to restate my position):

      "It seems one has two options: one can note the mistake and ignore
      it, or one can assume Mark knew his geography and was making a
      theological point. It hardly seems obvious that one of these is an
      inherently superior approach than the other."

      I can't agree with the last sentence. I would suggest that a mistake
      (either through carelessness or ignorance) is far more likely than a
      theological point. So much more likely, in fact, that the assumption
      of NT studies that nearly every iota has a theological reason (if you
      will excuse my hyperbole) is seriously misguided. Furthermore, this
      mindset leads scholars to look for levels of deliberate creativity in
      the NT writings that do not seem to be justified. Mark is elevated
      from a jumbled recorder of sermons strung into some sort of order to
      being a genius whose everyone word is loaded with theological import.

      I appreciate that my point of view is probably not very popular here
      so will go back to lurking. However, I do feel a valid contrast can
      be drawn between method in secular history and method in HJ studies.
      This might be due to the tight focus of HJ studies that makes it more
      difficult to carry out original research and hence ensures all the
      ground is gone over with a fine comb. This can be too much of a good
      thing.

      Yours

      James Hannam
      Pembroke College, Cambridge
    • Zeba Crook
      James, Thanks for this, and sorry for the delay. I ve been thinking a lot about your words. When I got your response, I thought, I understand now what you
      Message 2 of 8 , Aug 11, 2004
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        James,

        Thanks for this, and sorry for the delay. I've been thinking a lot
        about your words. When I got your response, I thought, "I understand
        now what you mean," and I did not disagree. In theory I can agree that
        too much can be made of very little. But it does seem to be the nature
        of our discipline that often we have very little to work with, and yet
        our work must go on. You compared our field to secular history, I
        think, but I cannot believe we are the only field that has to make
        significant arguments out of insignificant details.

        But I have recently been writing on redaction criticism for a lecture,
        and was reminded how much of our discipline is based on attention to
        tiny detail. Matthew leaves a word out or adds a word to Mark, and we
        assume he did so deliberately. Again, we are faced with the dilemma you
        bring up: is the change deliberate (and therefore probative of
        something), or it is absentminded/thoughtless (and therefore probative
        of nothing).

        In the end, I think it is the plausibility of the argument that carries
        the greater weight, and not the significance of the detail (or data),
        and on that matter I think you are quite right that the inversion of
        town names and Mark's other geographical "issues" are more likely errors
        than theological arguments.

        Cheers,

        Zeb
        --

        Zeba A. Crook

        Assistant Professor

        Religion and Classics

        2a Paterson Hall

        Carleton University

        1125 Colonel By Drive

        Ottawa, Ontario

        K1S 5B6

        613-520-2600, ext. 2276

        www.carleton.ca/~zcrook




        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Bob Schacht
        ... I have no opinion about Mark 11:1 regarding the significance of the inversion of the town names. However, regarding the issue of matters of details such as
        Message 3 of 8 , Aug 11, 2004
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          At 06:57 AM 8/11/2004, Zeba wrote:
          >James,
          >
          >... In theory I can agree that too much can be made of very little. But
          >it does seem to be the nature of our discipline that often we have very
          >little to work with, and yet our work must go on. ...
          >
          >... I have recently been writing on redaction criticism for a lecture,
          >and was reminded how much of our discipline is based on attention to
          >tiny detail. Matthew leaves a word out or adds a word to Mark, and we
          >assume he did so deliberately. Again, we are faced with the dilemma you
          >bring up: is the change deliberate (and therefore probative of
          >something), or it is absentminded/thoughtless (and therefore probative
          >of nothing).
          >
          >In the end, I think it is the plausibility of the argument that carries
          >the greater weight, and not the significance of the detail (or data),
          >and on that matter I think you are quite right that the inversion of
          >town names and Mark's other geographical "issues" are more likely errors
          >than theological arguments.


          I have no opinion about Mark 11:1 regarding the significance of the
          inversion of the town names. However, regarding the issue of matters of
          details such as these, all conclusions are weak unless they fit a pattern.
          Thus, in the matter of inverted town names, we must ask questions such as,
          Does the author of Mark do this elsewhere? Does the author normally show
          care for geographical order? Is the author known to make theological points
          about geographical details?

          If there are no patterns such as these to go by, and if the town inversion
          in Mark 11:1 is sui generis, then basically we are in no position to judge
          what the author meant, or did not mean, by the inversion.

          IMHO, of course.
          Bob

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

          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Zeba Crook
          Bob Schacht wrote:
          Message 4 of 8 , Aug 11, 2004
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            Bob Schacht wrote:

            <<If there are no patterns such as these to go by, and if the town
            inversion in Mark 11:1 is sui generis, then basically we are in no
            position to judge what the author meant, or did not mean, by the inversion>>

            Bob,
            I would alter this only to say that the absence of patterns makes any
            argument speculative, but that we are still free to speculate, or to set
            up speculalative experiments: let us assume Mark knew his geography:
            can any sense be made of the inversion. We are in a position to judge,
            just not with certainty.

            Cheers,

            Zeb

            --

            Zeba A. Crook

            Assistant Professor

            Religion and Classics

            2a Paterson Hall

            Carleton University

            1125 Colonel By Drive

            Ottawa, Ontario

            K1S 5B6

            613-520-2600, ext. 2276

            www.carleton.ca/~zcrook




            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Jacob Knee
            Just an initial report on the British New Testament Conference which took place in Edinburgh 2 - 4 September. If you have never been BNTC is an annual meeting
            Message 5 of 8 , Sep 4, 2004
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              Just an initial report on the British New Testament Conference which took
              place in Edinburgh 2 - 4 September.

              If you have never been BNTC is an annual meeting of NT scholars largely from
              British universities, doctoral students, and a few interested amateurs (like
              me). It is relatively small (this year, I guess, around 175) - so it has a
              friendly and informal feel - with papers that are usually of high quality.

              There are 3 main speakers (this year Tom Wright, Bart Ehrman and Judith
              Lieu) along with smaller seminars focussed on more specific areas of the
              discipline. (For more details on this years program see
              http://www.ntgateway.com/bnts/)

              Tom Wright kicked things off with a feisty and provocative overview of
              perspectives on Paul - the old perspective, the new perspective and what he
              called the 'fresh' perspective (which included the emphasis on Paul and
              narrative, and the political Paul - amongst others). He gave a swingeing
              glance at Stephen Westerholm's recent book on Paul (Perspectives Old and New
              on Paul: The "Lutheran" Paul and His Critics) criticisng it for getting both
              old and new perspectives wrong. He noted in particular, I think, the lack of
              attention to the Reformed 'old perspective' on Paul, criticised Westerholm
              for labelling Cranfield a Lutheran and noted the absence of any discussion
              of 'imputed righteousness'. He reminded people that the new perspective took
              the form it did as a corrective reaction against the view that Judaism was a
              religion of 'works righteousness'.

              Tom was then around for much of the rest of the conference - goodness only
              knows where he finds time or energy to do all the things he does. One
              seminar took the chance to review with him his latest book on the
              resurrection. I attended one of its sessions. Prof. Larry Hurtado - gave a
              sympathetic and thought provoking paper. He said he was in basic agreement
              with Tom on many issues - but it would be boring just to say that - so had
              decided to pick out a couple of things which he wanted to hear more about
              from Tom. In particular he pointed to Tom's repeated emphasis on 'cognitive
              phenomena' - beliefs about Jesus or their verbal expression - but with
              apparently little to say about religious experience or practice. Wright's
              response was that he couldn't cover evrything in his book (which is already
              700+ pages long) and was sympathetic to Hurtado's work on cultic devotion to
              Jesus - and saw their work as, in many places, dovetailing together.

              In questions Tom was pushed a little on whether it might not help his work
              (which is explicitly an apologetic for the resurrection) if he were not to
              be open to distinguishing, even a little, elements in the resurrection
              narratives that probably are legendary. Mark Goodacre gave the example of
              the holy ones rising from the tombs in Matthew - widely thought to be
              Matthew's own addition to the crucifixion/resurrection story. But even here
              Tom was not prepared to give ground - he said all sorts of things were
              possible and that he wouldn't like to rule out that God could raise the dead
              in the way Matthew indicated. He went on to explain that the context into
              which his book is written are debates with some scholars in the USA - and
              that if he gave any ground, he opened the door to every aspect of the
              resurrection narratives been called legendary (by those he debates with in
              the States). I found it fascinating (and surprising) to see the extent to
              which not just the form but the content of his work is determined by those
              he debates with in the USA and also wondered whether it was a tactical error
              - since in his debates in the USA it presumably opens him to the (false, I
              think) charge that he is, in fact, a crypto-fundamentalist.

              I'll report more in the next day or two - but just a comment on delivery of
              papers. Reading from papers at conferences just does not work. By all means
              print it out - let your audience take it away or have it before hand - but
              have mercy on us - please do not just read it out! The best speakers -
              Wright, Ehrman - were people who knew what they wanted to say - had a clear
              argument to make - highlighted the most important points - included some
              jokes - gestured trowards but didn't get bogged down in the detail - and
              kept eye contact with their audience. Doing a written paper for a journal or
              a chapter in your thesis and delivering a spoken argument at a conference
              (or as a teacher) are very different skills. Your paper may be the most
              ground breaking research the world of NT has ever known - but if your
              audience is asleep (or wishing they were asleep) - no one is going to know
              about all your hard work.

              Best wishes,
              Jacob Knee
              (Cam, Glos.)
            • John E Staton
              Jacob, Sounds like a good conference. Wish I had been there. Went to a conference in May where Wright s sparring partner, Jimmy Dunn was speaking. He used
              Message 6 of 8 , Sep 5, 2004
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                Jacob,
                Sounds like a good conference. Wish I had been there. Went to a
                conference in May where Wright's sparring partner, Jimmy Dunn was speaking.
                He used Powerpoint to great effect. I remember a remarkable animated scroll
                illustrating a lecture on the "New Perspective" (one area where Dunn and
                Wright agree, I believe).

                Best Wishes
                JOHN E STATON
                Penistone, Sheffield UK
                www.jestaton.org
                jestaton@...
              • James Ernest
                Thanks to Jacob Knee for this 3-part posting--very useful. ... James D. Ernest, Ph.D., Editor Baker Academic +1 616 891 5625 (office) jernest@BakerAcademic.com
                Message 7 of 8 , Sep 8, 2004
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                  Thanks to Jacob Knee for this 3-part posting--very useful.

                  --------------------------------
                  James D. Ernest, Ph.D., Editor
                  Baker Academic
                  +1 616 891 5625 (office)
                  jernest@...
                  http://www.BakerAcademic.com
                  --------------------------------
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