Re: [XTalk] Making connnections
- In a message dated 1/25/2005 12:20:26 A.M. Central Standard Time,
At 07:31 PM 1/24/2005, David Hindley wrote:
>Tony Buglass says:No, or else I don't understand either. What similarities do you see between
> >>The ethnographer Adolf Bastian has noted "elementary ideas common to all
>individuals. ...if Bastian's ideas still have any
>currency, or have given rise to better theories which may be of use in our
>This sounds a bit like the structural approach of Levi-Strauss as it applies
>to basic myths, doesn't it?
Bastian and Levi-Strauss? Just "evaluating connections between basic
myths/elementary ideas "? But Levi-Strauss cared more about the
*structure*-- how you could draw contrasts and parallels between ideas
within a culture, and maybe whether similar *structures* could be found
elsewhere. L-S was more interested in how ideas were organized, whereas
Bastian was more interested in the ideas themselves as basic elements, if I
remember correctly. Besides, it may be pertinent to remind ourselves that
L-S was French, and Bastian a 19th Century German, and after two World Wars
with Germany in his lifetime, L-S may not have thought too highly of older
generations of German scholars.
But how is this relevant to historical Jesus studies?
Well, the Gospels demonstrate both a large collection of folkloric
motifs--the small units like "death of the substitute" (Lazarus), the "marvelous
birth," the "special burial," etc.-- and an overall adherence to the "Return Song"
paradigm in their larger structures. (That's a macrostructure of narrative
that involves a devastation during the hero's absence set right by his
return.) The forms of the Gospel narratives on both levels did not originate with
the Evangelists, by any means. It's essential to recognize their derivative
Larry Swain's observations on attempts to link the Gospels to Homer were
right on (even though we lack the 1st C. textual evidence to support them on the
Homeric end). I can demonstrate much closer correspondences between Homer
and other traditions in which direct literary influence is impossible. That's
because these patterns are immanent throughout their traditions and reside
not in any given text or performance but in the cumulative experience of the
audiences and performers and writers.
But while it is a mistake to look for any specific literary or oral source
for these ubiquitous narrative elements, it is an even greater mistake to miss,
for instance, the fact that the Lazarus episode is a particular instance of
the "death of the substitute" multiform, or that the Joseph of Arimathaea
episode is a representative of the "special burial." That is, if we are
interested in recovering the historical framework of the transmission and reception
of these texts. (If on the other hand one wishes to advance a theological
agenda, then the best thing to do is sever the connection as much as possible,
and enhance the plausibility that these are historical accounts!)
Of course these studies are still, if not still in their infancy, barely
reaching adolescence. Bastian, and to a lesser degree Levi-Strauss, simply did
not have the collections of samples from various traditions you'd need to
come to any definitive conclusions; nor did they have the conceptual framework
supported by related studies in psycholinguistics and cognitive psychology.
Both were cutting-edge in their respective days, but then so were Lister and
Shapley. Both are extremely important as foundations for present-day
knowledge, but neither should be considered even remotely current.
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