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RE: [XTalk] Festinger and Wright

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  • David C. Hindley
    ... the guise of biographies ]? To reduce dissonance, to argue that the guy isn t really dead after all? Why would they argue for that particular resolution
    Message 1 of 16 , Sep 20, 2004
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      Rev Tony Buglass says:

      >>Well, yes, but with what aim [would NT Gospels be written as "apologies in
      the guise of biographies"]? To reduce dissonance, to argue that the guy
      isn't really dead after all? Why would they argue for that particular
      resolution of dissonance, when there were easier possibilities, like noble
      martyred prophet? [...] If I was a 1st C follower of Jesus the rabbi,
      looking at his end and disposal (whether you go with a garden tomb,
      Crossan's rubbish heap, or whatever), I would be more likely to build on
      Maccabean martyr tradition than such a revolutionary idea as resurrection of
      the individual before the general resurrection at the end.<<

      Your question would likely be right IF you are correct in your unstated
      assumptions about the kind of followers of Jesus who wrote the Gospels
      (i.e., essentially Jews from birth). However, proselytes to Judaism or at
      very least gentile "God-fearers," especially if they had converted or become
      associated with the specific aim of realizing and becoming part of a just
      messianic style kingdom, when faced with the discomfiture of the death of
      their messianic figure *and* especially later when the Jewish rebellion
      failed so miserably and burned all bridges that may have survived their
      original conversions/associations, could easily be seen reforming their
      adopted expectations by merging them with elements from one or more of the
      mystery cults popular in the Greek cities and creating a synthesis.

      >>[...] My point here is not so much to open up the details of that debate
      [about prophecy historicized vs history interpreted in light of prophesy],
      but to ask whether CD theory really gives the most likely explanation for
      what happened. They *didn't* make expectations fit the circumstances,
      because nobody expected those particular expectations.<<

      You have lost me here. Which particular circumstances? The danger I see is
      assuming that what the NT Gospel writers *say* were the expectations of
      Jesus and his followers were their *actual* expectations. However, we have
      other information from Josephus, Philo, Sibylline Oracles, Jewish
      pseudepigrapha and Greek/Roman writers, etc, that allow us to make educated
      guesses as to the kinds of people (both Jewish and non-Jewish) who might be
      attracted to a messianic movement (and yes I am assuming that the Christian
      movement was derived from such a movement) and speculate what kinds of
      expectations they might have had, and offers specific cases where these
      kinds of expectations met cold hard reality.

      Cognitive dissonance theory, which is far from being debunked by modern
      controlled psychological tests, offers a model under which these
      expectations might be expected to have evolved in the face of discomfiture.
      NT & early Christian scholarship really needs to look at realistic
      psychological models to help explain the historical evidence, or we risk
      bogging down in reconstructions ultimately based on what we wished it were
      all about.

      Respectfully,

      Dave Hindley
      Cleveland, Ohio, USA
    • David C. Hindley
      ... view the crucifixion as a cause of dissonance, because the disciples would have most likely (following social psychologists) interpreted Jesus execution
      Message 2 of 16 , Sep 20, 2004
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        Loren Rosson III says:

        >>The point is that circumstances **did** meet expectations. It's wrong to
        view the crucifixion as a
        cause of dissonance, because the disciples would have most likely (following
        social psychologists)
        interpreted Jesus' execution as part of the end-time drama they were already
        enacting.<<

        As I said in another post to Tony Buglass: "The danger I see is assuming
        that what the NT Gospel writers *say* were the expectations of Jesus and his
        followers were their *actual* expectations." Other literary evidence makes
        the idealized portraits of early Christian development found in NT gospels,
        Acts and other early Christian literature seem unlikely, and more
        "realistic" scenarios abound.

        >>Wright is too dismissive of Festinger for my (and evidently Allison's)
        liking; the dissonance phenomenon is real and explains many instances of
        revised expectations. It just doesn't happen to apply in this case.<<

        Well then, what did apply? Can you find modern psychological models that
        might predict rapid expansion of a movement's membership based on *met*
        expectations? It may be harder than you think.

        Usually the advance of a new idea is slow and steady (e.g. the examples of
        the advancement of scientific ideas that certainly explained evidence better
        than preceding theories did, in Thomas Kuhn's _The Structure of Scientific
        Revolutions_).

        Rapid expansions most often occur as emotional reactions to perceived
        threats (see the large number of anecdotal examples in Charles Mackay's
        _Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds_, 1852). To
        perceive threats implies discomfiture has been met in some manner.

        Respectfully,

        Dave Hindley
        Cleveland, Ohio, USA
      • Horace Jeffery Hodges
        ... (e.g. the examples of the advancement of scientific ideas that certainly explained evidence better than preceding theories did, in Thomas Kuhn s _The
        Message 3 of 16 , Sep 20, 2004
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          David C. Hindley wrote:

          >>Usually the advance of a new idea is slow and steady
          (e.g. the examples of the advancement of scientific
          ideas that certainly explained evidence better than
          preceding theories did, in Thomas Kuhn's _The
          Structure of Scientific Revolutions_).<<

          Perhaps I've misunderstood you, but I don't quite
          follow you on your reading of Kuhn.

          Kuhn's point was that normal science makes slow and
          steady advances within a paradigm as its maps out an
          already-existing paradigm's conceptual space across
          the empirical world.

          A "new idea," by which I assume that you mean a new
          "paradigm," does not make slow and steady advance.
          Quite the opposite, it makes a sudden, radical
          conceptual leap that restructures the thinking of
          those who embrace it. That's why it's a revolution.

          As for my take on Kuhn's view of scientific change --
          well, I have my doubts about its fruitfulness as a
          model for historians to use, but there it is.

          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:

          Sun-Ae Hwang and Horace Jeffery Hodges
          Seo-Dong 125-2
          Shin-Dong-A, Apt. 102-709
          447-710 Kyunggido, Osan-City
          South Korea
        • Loren Rosson
          [Loren] ... [Dave] ... development ... Realistic to whom? There was nothing unrealistic about being part of an apocalyptic movement. You re too suspicious of
          Message 4 of 16 , Sep 20, 2004
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            [Loren]
            >>The point is that circumstances **did** meet
            >>expectations. It's wrong to view the crucifixion
            >>as a cause of dissonance, because the disciples
            >>would have most likely (following social
            >>psychologists)interpreted Jesus' execution as
            >>part of the end-time drama they were already
            >> enacting.

            [Dave]
            >As I said in another post to Tony Buglass: "The
            >danger I see is assuming that what the NT Gospel
            >writers *say* were the expectations of Jesus and
            >his followers were their *actual* expectations."
            >Other literary evidence makes
            >the idealized portraits of early Christian
            development
            >found in NT gospels, Acts and other early Christian
            >literature seem unlikely, and more "realistic"
            >scenarios abound.

            Realistic to whom? There was nothing unrealistic about
            being part of an apocalyptic movement. You're too
            suspicious of too much NT testimony. Embarrassing
            traditions like Mk 9:1 (and sanitized versions of
            prophecies like "God will destroy the temple and
            rebuild it in three days") are reliable enough for me.
            Certainly the gospel writers' present idealized
            versions of the Jesus movement. Apocalyptic movements
            always fail and find ways of coping with the broken
            dream. But what's the mark of failure? Death and
            demoralization in the early stages or "no kingdom"
            over a longer period of time? It's doubtful that
            Jesus' crucifixion would have caused dissonance in the
            early stages of the movement. Your comments seem to
            imply that I have been making a strict equation
            between the gospel writers' expectations and the
            disciples' actual expectations, which isn't true.

            [Loren]
            >>Wright is too dismissive of Festinger for my
            >>(and evidently Allison's)liking; the dissonance
            >>phenomenon is real and explains many instances of
            >>revised expectations. It just doesn't happen to
            apply
            >>in this case.

            [Dave]
            >Well then, what did apply?

            Simple: visions and the empty tomb.

            [Dave]
            >Cognitive dissonance theory, which is far from
            >being debunked by modern controlled psychological
            >tests, offers a model under which these
            >expectations might be expected to have evolved
            >in the face of discomfiture.

            In cases of actual dissonance I agree. I disagree, in
            other words, with Tom Wright and Tony Buglass (and
            perhaps even Dale Allison; it's still unclear to me
            how his argument would proceed under the assumption
            that dissonance was in place) who claim that there
            were more easy ways of dealing with dissonance than
            claiming one's messiah had been raised from the dead.
            Fact is the NT writers were comfortable dealing with
            dissonance in all sorts of far-fetched ways. A
            messiah's resurrection wasn't any more wild,
            unprecedented, or revisionist than a bodily temple
            (instead of the Judean temple) being raised in three
            days (Jn 2). Tony is right that most groups would have
            looked to a martyrdom theology instead of individual
            resurrection, but there are always wild exceptions in
            every time and place. History actually teaches us to
            expect the wild exceptions seeking to be distinguished
            from the mainstream. But again, dissonance must be in
            place for this to happen, and I doubt there was much
            in the early Christian movement.

            >NT & early Christian scholarship really needs to look
            >at realistic psychological models to help explain
            >the historical evidence, or we risk
            >bogging down in reconstructions ultimately based on
            >what we wished it were all about.

            Explain who's wishing here. And leave aside Wright; we
            all know where he's coming from.

            =====
            Loren Rosson III
            Nashua NH
            rossoiii@...

            "In the natural sciences a person is remembered for his best idea; in the social sciences he is remembered for his worst."



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          • Tony Buglass
            I wrote: They *didn t* make expectations fit the circumstances, because nobody expected those particular expectations. Dave Hindley replied: You have lost me
            Message 5 of 16 , Sep 20, 2004
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              I wrote:
              They *didn't* make expectations fit the circumstances,
              because nobody expected those particular expectations.

              Dave Hindley replied:
              You have lost me here. Which particular circumstances? The danger I see is
              assuming that what the NT Gospel writers *say* were the expectations of
              Jesus and his followers were their *actual* expectations. However, we have
              other information from Josephus, Philo, Sibylline Oracles, Jewish
              pseudepigrapha and Greek/Roman writers, etc, that allow us to make educated
              guesses as to the kinds of people (both Jewish and non-Jewish) who might be
              attracted to a messianic movement...

              My phrase was "particular expectations", because as far as I'm aware, nobody expected the resurrection of an individual. There were expectations of general resurrection at the end, and there were hellenistic expectations of immortality for individuals, but there doesn't appear to have been any expectations of the resurrection of an individual before the end. Therefore it cannot be argued that they made their expectations fit the circumstances.

              As to whether the NT writers faithfully represent or conveniently reconstruct the expectations of Jesus and his immediate followers, your references to Philo, the Sibylline oracles, etc seem to me to be less appropriate to a Galiliean peasant messianism than the picture offered by the NT tradition. I still argue that they would have been more likely to go with maccabean martyr theology to account for the execution of their leader.

              Cheers,
              Rev Tony Buglass
              Superintendent Minister
              Upper Calder Methodist Circuit
              W Yorks

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