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Re: [XTalk] Is there a consensus on the Historical Jesus?

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  • Tony Buglass
    Jospeh Codis asks: Are the following events that are reported in the gospel historical of not? 1 - The three predictions of the Easter event (death and
    Message 1 of 17 , Jun 12, 2005
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      Jospeh Codis asks:
      Are the following events that are reported in the gospel historical of
      not?
      1 - The three predictions of the Easter event (death and resurrection),
      (Mark 8:31-33 // 9:30-32 and 10:32-34).
      2 - The demons who recognize the secret identity of Jesus (Mark 1:23-26
      // 1:33 and 3:11).
      3 - The division of the sawyer's parable in two parts, and the
      privileged treatment of the disciples who are entitled to the
      explanation of the parable (Mark 4:1-20)
      4 - The profession of faith of Peter (Mark 8:27-30).
      5 - The transfiguration and the recommendation to keep this event secret
      until the resurrection (Mark 9:2-13).

      I'm intrigued as to why you ask this particular question, Joseph, and why you choose these episodes from which to do it. You've been on this list long enough to know that there will certainly be no consensus regarding these particular gospel events - Ted Weeden, for one, will argue that just about anything from Mark's gospel is theological fiction. In each of the cases you cite, there is sufficient to justify an argument that the story was composed by Mark in the shape in which it now occurs - even if you want to argue that that there are historical events behind the stories, and there are many who wouldn't allow even that much.

      So, I'm curious to know what you're driving at. Why these particular stories? Why all stories from Mark? Why not start from something like Sanders' list of "agreed facts" (Historical Figure of Jesus p.10)? At least that would give a clear point of departure - and there would be departure, I reckon, because there is probably very little on which we can say there is consensus on HJ.

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


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    • Richard Bartholomew
      There can t be consensus. 1 exists in the context of a miracle; 5 is a miracle; and 2 requires the existence of supernatural entities. How historians and
      Message 2 of 17 , Jun 12, 2005
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        There can't be consensus. "1" exists in the context of
        a miracle; "5" is a miracle; and "2" requires the
        existence of supernatural entities. How historians and
        scholars of religion are supposed to deal with such
        alleged phenomena in principle is a massive issue,
        before we even get onto what actually happened during
        the life of Jesus.

        Anyway, here's a useful bib on the concept of
        miracles, which may offer some methodological
        pointers:

        http://www.infography.com/content/547907907770.html

        Richard Bartholomew
        Osaka University


        --- Tony Buglass <TonyBuglass@...> wrote:


        ---------------------------------
        Jospeh Codis asks:
        Are the following events that are reported in the
        gospel historical of
        not?
        1 - The three predictions of the Easter event (death
        and resurrection),
        (Mark 8:31-33 // 9:30-32 and 10:32-34).
        2 - The demons who recognize the secret identity of
        Jesus (Mark 1:23-26
        // 1:33 and 3:11).
        3 - The division of the sawyer's parable in two parts,
        and the
        privileged treatment of the disciples who are entitled
        to the
        explanation of the parable (Mark 4:1-20)
        4 - The profession of faith of Peter (Mark 8:27-30).
        5 - The transfiguration and the recommendation to keep
        this event secret
        until the resurrection (Mark 9:2-13).






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      • Tony Buglass
        Joseph wrote: I have mentioned a series of texts from GMark that have puzzled Tony. Why on earth have I made such a choice? The answer is that the study of
        Message 3 of 17 , Jun 13, 2005
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          Joseph wrote:
          I have mentioned a series of texts from GMark that have puzzled Tony.
          Why on earth have I made such a choice? The answer is that the study of
          those texts can help us build the ladder we need.

          To be accurate, it wasn't so much the passages themselves which puzzled me (I'm a preacher, I'm used to digging out and explaining such stuff - at least as far as will satisfy a Methodist congregation!), but your choice of those particular passages in *this* context. To use a different "parable", a couple of tourists were hiking in the Irish countryside, and stopped to ask a famer the way to Cork. "Ah, to be sure," he said "if I was going there, I wouldn't be starting from here!"

          To use a broad brush, I can sketch out a number of issues raised by these stories - the relationship between Marks narrative and history, the natore of Mark's sources, the possible origins and transmission of the material, the miracle stories and "what really happened", the question of the existence and nature of demons, and how or whether we need to strain those narratives through a filter of local and comtemporary mythology. And when we've done that, what sort of ladder to do you expect we'll find?

          To bounce off your point about the Jesus Seminar (although it could be counter-argued that *you* are offering personal opinion and scholarly speculation), I think there is a methodological issue about the supernatural.. Modern scholarship is so rooted in Enlightenment and post-enlightenment thought that it is usually just assumed that the supernatural does not exist. Stories such as those you quote must therefore be demythologised to remove or "explain away" the supernatural elements, because they are "not real". Well, I have a suspicion that the methodology has its own circularity, almost akin to the absurd statement that infra-red and ultra-violet cannot exist because I can't see them. ISTM that this sort of argument reaches its height in logical positivism, which is circular in that it necessarily defines evidence which proves its own case.

          Now, as soon as I offer an argument like that, I can feel the sudden movement as listmembers reach for their keyboards to tell me why they think I'm wrong - and that's my point. I don't think these stories will enable us to find a consensus, in fact I think they will do the opposite. We had a run around these issues from around November 2002, around Wright and critical realism. Then Rikk Watts touiched on it as part of a discussion on critical reflection in March 2004. There have been one or two mentions since then, according to my archives. As I remember, those discussions showed that there is no consensus on the assumptions of the quest, so there is little possibility of consensus on its conlusions. One of the comments by both Meier (in Marginal Jew vol 1, as I remember) and Theissen (in Quest for the Plausible Jesus) is that much-vaunted criteria such as independent multiple attestation have so far not lived up to their promise and have not enabled a consensus.

          There is a useful discussion lurking somewhere in these woods, but I think you've dropped us into such a deep thicket, all we can see is trees. Perhaps it would help if, before trying to chop some down to make a ladder, you tell us what sort of ladder you're actually looking for. I gather from your comments on the Jesus Seminar that you don't like their ladder - tell us why? And what about critical realism, or plausibility?

          Let's see if we can start from a clearing, rather than a thicket. Give us a signpost, Joseph!

          Cheers,
          Rev Tony Buglass
          Superintendent Minister
          Upper Calder Methodist Circuit
          W Yorks
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        • McGrath, James
          I think that this question is just the sort this list is excellent for, but I wonder if the questions are not rhetorical, since there is a large amount of
          Message 4 of 17 , Jun 13, 2005
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            I think that this question is just the sort this list is excellent for,
            but I wonder if the questions are not rhetorical, since there is a large
            amount of agreement on at least several of them.

            Did Jesus predict his death beforehand? This is certainly not
            impossible, even on a purely human level, since one didn't need
            supernatural knowledge to know what might happen if one stirred things
            up in Jerusalem at Passover in the time of Pilate. However, the best
            explanation of the emphasis on the disciples not understanding is that
            they read a new understanding back into Jesus' words after the fact. One
            suggestion is that a saying such as 'take my yoke' formed the basis for
            the later 'take up the cross'.

            As for the second question, it seems that a historian can never ever
            state that demons recognized the secret identity of Jesus. Whether a
            historian can conclude beyond reasonable doubt that people who would
            have been identified in the ancient world as demon possessed said these
            sorts of things about Jesus is a different issue, and the distinction is
            an important one.

            The parable of the sower: It seems that there is a large degree of
            consensus that the interpretation of the parables is secondary, although
            the truth of the matter is that there is really no way to prove this.
            How could anyone from our vantage point in history confirm whether or
            not Jesus spoke to a small group of disciples privately and explained a
            parable, much less whether he explained it in precisely this way? This
            issue may be useful in helping readers to understand how historical
            study works, and what it can and cannot accomplish. This may provide a
            useful place to give a concrete example of the relevance of the Gospel
            of Thomas.

            Peter's confession seems highly plausible. That the church would invent
            a saying in which Jesus tells Peter not to call him 'Christ' to anyone,
            and then not long after calls him 'satan', has always seemed unlikely,
            although Wrede's Messianic Secret hypothesis claimed just that. And so
            here too there is a useful way of showing the difference between
            scholarly consensus and probability on the one hand, and the theories
            that sometimes get the most attention.

            I'll stop there, except to ask whether the intention of these questions
            was simply to confirm what the scholarly consensus seems to be, or is it
            a hope to find arguments that will salvage the authenticity of some of
            these sayings and events? I'm just curious!

            Best wishes,

            James


            *****************************
            Dr. James F. McGrath
            Assistant Professor of Religion
            Butler University, Indianapolis
            http://religion.sytes.net
            *****************************



            -----Original Message-----

            Date: Sun, 12 Jun 2005 11:44:05 +0300
            From: Joseph Codsi <joseph5@...>
            Subject: Is there a consensus on the Historical Jesus?

            I find David B. Gowler's task quite interesting. But I feel the need to
            go beyond the question: **What Are They Saying About the Historical
            Jesus?** Is there a way of going from **What are they saying?** to
            **What conclusions can be drawn concerning the HJ?** Is there a
            scholarly consensus on certain points? Are we any closer to the creation
            of a new knowledge concerning the Historical Jesus? Is there a way of
            going beyond the formulation of personal opinions and speculative views
            to firm knowledge? If you were asked to say what has been achieved so
            far in terms of creating a new knowledge about the HJ, what would you
            say?

            Here are a few very specific questions. Can we answer them today with
            confidence, and is there a consensus about them?

            Are the following events that are reported in the gospel historical of
            not?

            1 - The three predictions of the Easter event (death and resurrection),
            (Mark 8:31-33 // 9:30-32 and 10:32-34).

            2 - The demons who recognize the secret identity of Jesus (Mark 1:23-26
            // 1:33 and 3:11).

            3 - The division of the sawyer's parable in two parts, and the
            privileged treatment of the disciples who are entitled to the
            explanation of the parable (Mark 4:1-20)

            4 - The profession of faith of Peter (Mark 8:27-30).

            5 - The transfiguration and the recommendation to keep this event secret
            until the resurrection (Mark 9:2-13).

            I will stop here. There is no need to lengthen the list. How would you
            assess what has been achieved so far?

            Peace,

            Joseph
            ================
            Joseph Codsi
            P.O. Box 116-2088
            Beirut, Lebanon
            Telephone (961) 1 423 145
            joseph5@...
          • Joseph Codsi
            Reply to Richard Bartholomew Please excuse the lack of clarity of my initial question. I am not interested in the historicity of miracles as such, but in the
            Message 5 of 17 , Jun 14, 2005
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              Reply to Richard Bartholomew

              Please excuse the lack of clarity of my initial question. I am not
              interested in the historicity of miracles as such, but in the
              transformation of a miracle account (an exorcism, for instance) into a
              discourse in which the secret identity of Jesus is revealed. I will
              consider here the case of the demons who reveal the secret identity of
              Jesus (Mark 1:23-26 // 1:33 and 3:11).

              Two scenarios are possible in this case. The first one (I will call it a
              traditional reading) interprets the stories as historical facts. This
              means that Jesus had two personalities and that he wanted to keep his
              second personality secret. The demons are playing dirty tricks on him by
              revealing his secret, in spite of his orders to remain silent.

              The other possibility is that Jesus did not have two personalities at
              all, and that no demons ever revealed his second identity. In this case,
              someone invented those stories for a specific, but as yet unknown
              reason. In this case that "someone" used exorcism stories to transform
              them into a revelation of the true identity of Jesus ("The Holy One of
              God" and "the Son of God").

              This is the kind of question I am interested in. I think the answer to
              this kind of question (if such an answer exists) must come from the
              testimony that is expressing itself in the gospel. Someone is testifying
              to the Christian faith in Jesus Christ, Son of God. Is that someone a
              demon (a mythical reality) or a man (a good Christian)? Is there a way
              of identifying that "someone"?

              I think that the first scenario is what the unknown person (who is
              witnessing to the faith) wants us to believe. In reality, however, the
              second scenario is the historical one.

              Question: Why would someone act in this fashion? What would compel him
              or her to act in this way?

              Answer: Human behavior is here the clue to the mystery I am trying to
              resolve.

              I will say more on this quest in my answer to Tony Buglass.

              Peace,

              Joseph
            • Tony Buglass
              Joseph wrote: If you asked me the way to Cork, I would answer: You cannot go there by car; you must fly. This new scenario assumes that you are driving
              Message 6 of 17 , Jun 15, 2005
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                Joseph wrote:
                If you asked me the way to Cork, I
                would answer: "You cannot go there by car; you must fly." This new
                scenario assumes that you are driving through the streets of London and
                ask me the way to Ireland.

                Well, I did take my car to Eire a few years ago, driving from North Yorkshire to County Wicklow with a bit of assistance from the car ferry between Liverpool and Dublin. That misses the point of my so-called parable. "I wouldn't start from here" is the problem - "here" is precisely where we are; we can't start from somewhere else.

                "Here" in the context of this conversation meant a choice of example passages from GMark which as far as I could see were far from the best starting point for the exercise you apparently had in mind - finding a consensus on HJ. Your chosen passages contained several layers needing interpretation, unpacking, demythologisation, etc. Predictions of the death and resurrection are a case in point: even if Jesus could have reasonably anticipated his death, and could (as an item of faith) have anticipated resurrection (albeit not so soon!), the shape of the gospel accounts suggest they were re-written in the light of subsequent events (or claimed events). I have no difficulty with the principle of that exercise, but my point was that each of those layers would itself provoke debate and disagreement, and thus make the search for consensus less likely. Some will disagree on whether Jesus could have been so sure about his death, whether he would have believed in resurrrection, and whether there were grounds for writing such a vaticinium ex eventu. Which is why I suggested a different starting-point - the "basic facts" as set out by E P Sanders. I don't have strong reasons for sticking to that list rather than anyone else's - I just thought someone of the stature of Sanders would be a more secure starting-point for a discussion of this nature.

                You seem to me to be in danger of re-inventing the wheel - or at least not benfitting from other versions which are being invented around you. Yes, there are problems with te version we have - historical-critical study. As I implied in my earlier post, it carries its own assumptions, which may necessarily exclude evidence - for example, it is generally assumed that the supernatural does not happen, and therefore cannot happen. There may be good reasons for allowing that assuumption in most cases, but it is usually an assumption, and not always open to question or re-examination. Supposing something *did* happen, which was only open to explanation in the categories of language normally reserved for the supernatural - the current method would perhaps not treat that evidence properly, assuming it to have been fiction, or re-interpretation, or myth, or a dodgy cheesy sandwich.

                However, this is not a new issue, and there are already a number of attempts to re-examine our methodology. I mentioned Wright and critical realism as one example. Why are you apparently starting again from scratch? What is lacking in other attempts to create a reliable method?

                Cheers,
                Rev Tony Buglass
                Superintendent Minister
                Upper Calder Methodist Circuit
                W Yorks
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              • Tony Buglass
                Jospeh wrote: This means that you must combine the historical critical method with another method in order to solve an important aspect of the gospel problem.
                Message 7 of 17 , Jun 16, 2005
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                  Jospeh wrote:
                  This means that you must combine the
                  historical critical method with another method in order to solve an
                  important aspect of the gospel problem.

                  In a manner of speaking. I think the point that I was trying to make was that there are weaknesses in some of the assumptions of the historical critical method, or at least the historical critical method as it has been employed in 19th and 20th C scholarship. Using a method which does not allow for the alleged existence of the supernatural to examine a world which assumed the existence of the supernatural must create a gap which has to be explained, and the nature of that explanation will itself be determined by the presuppositions of the method - which ISTM creates a certain degree of circularity. So there needs to be perhaps some refinement of the method to check out the conclusions and guard against uncritical dependence on presuppositions. Whether that amounts to combining with another method is another question. I think that is what your stated aim of "creating new knowledge" is exploring.

                  My comment about "re-inventing the wheel" is really aimed at this aspect of the issue. It isn't news to say that the historical critical method has its limitations. It is probably still the best set of tools in the toolbox for historical enquiry, and I remain unconvinced by some of the alternatives offered by post-modernism. (I'm assuming of course that I've understood them - in some cases, I'm pretty sure I haven't!) However, my point is that others have already tried to improve the tools we have available, in order to develop a method which will allow consensus because of the reliability of its results. There has as yet been no such "silver bullet".

                  For example, I get the impression from Crossan's "Historical Jesus" that he felt the criterion of multiple independent attestation to be virtually an infallible key for establishing early tradition. It ought therefore to produce an agreed analysis of Gospel tradition. It didn't. Even Crossan himself "tweaked" his conclusions - according to multiple independent attestation, traditions about Jesus' apocalyptic return are in the earliest stratum of tradition (Crossan, Historical Jesus, p.427f). However, Crossan doesn't believe Jesus used apocalyptic (Hist. Jesus p.238f), so those traditions can't be where the criterion puts them. In terms of Crossan's arguments, either those traditions are shown to be early, which counters the grounds on which Crosaan rejects Jesus' use of apocalyptic, or he is right that Jesus didn't use apocalyptic, in which case a criterion which suggests he did must therefore be at fault. No silver bullet. And of course the conversation about methodology has moved on since 1991, not least via Theissen & Winter "Quest for the Plausible Jesus."

                  Now, I use this as no more than example that others have been exploring the area into which you seem to be venturing, and I wonder why you feel like a pioneer in uncharted territory. Is there something new which looks to you like a key which has not yet been employed? I wonder if that is the reason for your comments about "Jesus' troubled mind":

                  You wrote:
                  Two thousand years ago, the supernatural was part of the natural world.
                  One thing is clear. The troubled and disturbed mind believed in the
                  supernatural and lived in a mythical world, where demons were as
                  ordinary citizens as people.

                  I'd say that most folk back then believed in a supernatural world populated by spirits, evil and otherwise. It wasn't necessarily the symptom of a disturbed mind. As far as the mind of Jesus is concerned, we have to be very cautious about the possibility of recovering firm eveidence of his psychological state. It is many years since I read any 19th C scholarship, but I remember that was one of the developments from the so-called "Lives of Jesus", and the rise of form criticism showed it to be impossible - most of the so-called evidence for Jesus' mental state was held to be evidence for the theology of the gospel writers.

                  So I'm still left pondering what you think is new about your method or the "new knowledge" you think you can uncover. The passages you have offered for examination have been explained in terms of Markan theology, or at least Markan redaction. Why do you think that explanation doesn't work?

                  Cheers,
                  Rev Tony Buglass
                  Superintendent Minister
                  Upper Calder Methodist Circuit
                  W Yorks
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                • Tony Buglass
                  Jospeh wrote: I did not mean to say that Jesus had two personalities. The gospel speaks of him as if he had two personalities. If we take the gospel to the
                  Message 8 of 17 , Jun 16, 2005
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                    Jospeh wrote:
                    I did not mean to say that Jesus had two personalities. The gospel
                    speaks of him as if he had two personalities. If we take the gospel to
                    the letter, then we admit that he had a psychopathological problem. But
                    there is also another possibility. Someone else could have made up the
                    story about Jesus. In this second case, the person who has done so would
                    be the one with the disturbed mind.

                    OK - sorry, I obviously missed that point. However, I'm still not sure we need to go down the road of "troubled minds". You wrote the other day about someone changing the facts to fit the faith, and then being troubled by it until they are able to resolve it. That sounds very much like a form of dissonance theory, which we've had a look at on this list in the last year or so.

                    I can see how it is possible to interpret GMark in this way, but is it necessary, and is it any more satisfactory than any other interpretative frameworks? I can certainly see how the disciples must have gone through world-changing experiences with Jesus, if the gospel traditions have any basis at all in facts or experience - ministry of a type which left behind miracle-stories, conflict leading to trial and death, then whatever gave rise to the resurrection traditions. Allowing for the wide range of interpretation between Mike Grondin's Conservative Religious Scholar and what I suppose we ought to call a Sceptical Non-religious Scholar, the one point of agreement must be that *something* happened - something about the experience of life with Jesus that launched and fuelled the stories that became the gospels. Within that range of interpretation comes the examination of what it was that happened, and how much it might trouble, astound, or inspire the disciples.

                    My problem so far, I think, is with the basic assumption that were dealing with a troubled mind, rather than a perfectly healthy mind dealing with puzzling phenomena and an astounding personality, and interpreting it within the accepted world-view of his culture and day. Does the gospel really speak of Jesus as having two personalities? Or one person with more than one role? You used the word identity - "Jesus didn't try to keep his second identity secret" - is there a helpful distinction between "personality", "identity", and "role"? Am I in danger of becoming a monophysite, and do I care? :) More to the point - are we in danger of reading either modern psychological frames of reference, or later theological disputes into a gospel text in which they ae not appropriate?

                    Either way, I don't yet see how this helps us to improve our method - we're still left with issues which can be appropriately examined by historical and literary criticism.

                    Cheers,
                    Rev Tony Buglass
                    Superintendent Minister
                    Upper Calder Methodist Circuit
                    W Yorks
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                  • Mike Grondin
                    ... CRS s might prefer Skeptically-Inclined Non-Religious Scholars . Mind the acronym. (:-) Mike
                    Message 9 of 17 , Jun 16, 2005
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                      --- Tony Buglass wrote:
                      > what I suppose we ought to call a Sceptical Non-religious Scholar

                      CRS's might prefer 'Skeptically-Inclined Non-Religious Scholars'.
                      Mind the acronym. (:-)

                      Mike
                    • Tony Buglass
                      Mike wrote: CRS s might prefer Skeptically-Inclined Non-Religious Scholars . Mind the acronym. (:-) Hee, hee. Luvvitt! COuld I count as one of the Scholarly
                      Message 10 of 17 , Jun 17, 2005
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                        Mike wrote:
                        CRS's might prefer 'Skeptically-Inclined Non-Religious Scholars'.
                        Mind the acronym. (:-)

                        Hee, hee. Luvvitt!
                        COuld I count as one of the Scholarly And Indefatigable Note-Taking Students?
                        Most of the time I have try to be a Really Energetic Vicar. But today's my day off...
                        Cheers,
                        Rev Tony Buglass
                        Superintendent Minister
                        Upper Calder Methodist Circuit
                        W Yorks
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                      • Tony Buglass
                        Joseph wrote: When I say that GMark s demons speak as if Jesus had two personalities, I do not say so because this fits my ideology or because I find that
                        Message 11 of 17 , Jun 19, 2005
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                          Joseph wrote:
                          When I say that GMark's demons speak as if Jesus had two personalities,
                          I do not say so because this fits my ideology or because I find that
                          satisfactory. I am simply reading what is in the text. In the first
                          exorcism, the unclean spirit addresses Jesus as "Jesus of Nazareth",
                          which is the name of the man, Jesus. Then the unclean spirit reveals the
                          second personality of Jesus, which is identified as "the Holy One of
                          God".

                          Well, I'm not sure about this. I think you are interpreting the text, and not necessarily in accordance with other aspects of Mark's writing. The theme of the text is ath authority of Jesus, primarily as a teacher - people were amazed at the authority (exousia) of his teaching in contrast to the derived authority of the usual teachers. The possessed man then enters the conversation, first addressing Jesus by name, and then declaring that he knows who Jesus is - the Holy One of God. The exorcism takes place, and people are again amazed (ethambethesan - conventional miracle/exorcism language?) at his authority and "new teaching".

                          I think the story as we have it is very Markan in shape. The recognition of Jesus by the possessed man is not recognition that he has two identities, much less two personalities, but that Jesus of Nazareth is *really* the Holy One - a recognition which contrasts with the stupidity and blindness of the disciples. Even the crowds can see that something new and special is going on. The disciples continue to be obtuse. Now, I'm sure that Jesus' disciples would have had some difficulty coming to terms with such radical implications, but I can't believe they were quite as thick as Mark suggests - either he really had a personal axe to grind, or this is really authorial rhetoric, the classic dramatic device which has a character ask the question which allows the author to tell the audience what is going on. This is about a possessed man seeing who Jesus really is, and disciples failing to do so.

                          As to the implications of the title "Holy One of God", I don't see that we can load it with later christology. It *might* have christological implications, or might not - Messiah was not necessarily a divine or even heavenly figure. Even where it is interpreted in terms of a heavenly character, it's a long way short of being another personality.

                          I'm still not sure where we have new method or new knowledge in all of this. My interpretation above is I believe in line with historical critical method, and redaction criticism. The limitations of the method are that it doesn't allow us to ask whether there was *really* a demon, or whether a supernatural entity could *really* see Jesus in a way others couldn't, simply because of the assumptions of the method and the nature of the data. The historical question (what really happened) is not really the first question in this part of Mark's Gospel, rather we're asking "what is Mark telling us about Jesus?" The only troubled mind, to return to your original point a few days ago, is that of the possessed man in the story.

                          Cheers,
                          Rev Tony Buglass
                          Superintendent Minister
                          Upper Calder Methodist Circuit
                          W Yorks
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                        • Tony Buglass
                          Joseph wrote: What the demons are revealing in the three passages of GMark, in a pre- Easter context, is exactly what the disciples proclaimed in a post-Easter
                          Message 12 of 17 , Jun 24, 2005
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                            Joseph wrote:
                            What the demons are revealing in the three passages of GMark, in a pre-
                            Easter context, is exactly what the disciples proclaimed in a post-Easter
                            context. So the demons and the disciples did the same thing...To the
                            extent the disciples altered the historical truth for reasons of faith, they
                            are responsible of a material lie. This makes of them demons. They see
                            themselves as demons, even though they felt compelled to alter the
                            historical truth for theological reasons. What they said about Jesus was
                            theologically correct and historically incorrect...

                            Tony replies:
                            I think this is really stretching a point. All the gospel traditions are affected by their post-Easter context, whether or not they are materially altered to fit it. I can't see how "putting a spin" on a story in order to allude to later understandings would be felt to be demonic. To suggest that theauthors/editors of Christian tradition felt guilt at changing alleged historical facts to fit the theology is making assumptions about attitudes to history, fact and truth which are questionable. In fact, I suggest this is reading post-Enlightenment historicism into the attitudes of your allegedly guilty disciples.

                            Joseph:
                            What I am saying here cannot make sense for someone who considers
                            as historical what pertains to the revelation of the messianic identity of
                            Jesus that is made by the demons...
                            Tony, I think this is the major reason why you are so reluctant to accept
                            the way I am reading the text...When you say that Mark is responsible for shaping the episode the way it is, you imply that his story contains historical facts as well as literary
                            fiction. The problem is that you do not say what is history and what is
                            fiction. In the end you read the Markan story as if it had been entirely
                            historical. There is here a lack of consistency.

                            Tony:
                            If I discuss the statements and attitudes of Oberon and Titania in "Midsummer Night's Dream", I am not thereby committing myself to a belief in faeries. If I discuss the role played by demons in an exorcism story, I am not thereby committing myself to a belief in supernatural discarnate beings. I am engaging in literary criticism and character analysis. In that respect, historicity is almost irrelevant. The question is what Mark is making of the narrative by the way he shapes the dialogue. It isn't even claiming that Mark is using historical material, but that he is receiving an earlier tradition - history or fiction, doesn't matter. I take your point that the theme of the disciples' slowness isn't actually in this pericope, but it is nevertheless used by an author for whom that is a major theme, and therefore has a background influence.

                            Joseph:
                            The creation of a new knowledge is not a question of good will. New
                            knowledge is produced through the revision of old prejudices. We create
                            new knowledge when we show that what used to be considered true is
                            actually false. This is exactly what I have been doing in all our exchanges,
                            knowing that the creation of new knowledge can be an arduous and long
                            process.

                            Tony:
                            Of course. I agree entirely. My first encounter with biblical scholarship was when I (as a very young and very fundamentalist Christian) went as a student to a (traditionally evangelical) Bible college, preparatory to offering for ministry and going to university. It will show how conservative I was if I say that the evangelical college liberalised me rather a lot! It laid the foundations for what has so far been over 30 years of study and exploration. A lot of assumptions have bitten the dust, and a lot of new knowledge has come along. However, the key for me is the method by which exploration is conducted. And that is the question which I have been trying to answer throughout this thread. You seem to me to be saying that traditional historical critical scholarship is inadequate and has failed to adequately deliver the goods. Nevertheless, what you have so far offered doesn't seem to be any different to anything which can be discerned by traditional historical or literary criticism. The only difference I have so far seen is the difference in your assumption - guilty or disturbed authors, etc. The question remains for me - what is your proposed methodology? How is it better than the tools we already have? How does it meet their shortfalls?

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



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                          • Tony Buglass
                            Joseph wrote: So far we have agreed to disagree. Our failure to resolve a specific problem related to 3 Markan passages shows that the way we read the texts is
                            Message 13 of 17 , Jun 26, 2005
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                              Joseph wrote:
                              So far we have agreed to disagree. Our failure to resolve a specific
                              problem related to 3 Markan passages shows that the way we read the
                              texts is not objective. [snipped] For reasons beyond our control, we
                              see one side of the coin and we act as if the other side did not exist.
                              What we do not see does not exist.

                              Is it ever possible to be truly objective in the way we read the texts? I know - the best critical method will be as objective as possible, thus enabling scholars to eliminate as much subjective judgement as possible, etc. Well, as I said a few emails ago, so far none of the much-vaunted methodologies or criteria have enabled a consensus, and I would say that is in part due to the presuppositions of the scholars involved and in part due to the limitations of the method. For example, we have discussed historical method on this list as a scientific methodology, and have come to the conclusion ISTM that while historical study is scientific it is not the same kind of science as physics or chemistry, but more like geology in that normal experimiental method is not appropriate.

                              Your comment "what we see does not exist" echoes my comment a few days ago concerning possible weaknesses of historical critical method where it assumes that the supernatural does not exist, and therefore always seeks a reductve explanation for alleged supernatural events or narratives. As I said then, this is often akin to my claiming that infra-red does not exist, because I can't see it. The weakness of the claim is that it is circular - it is in the nature of infra-red that I cannot see it. So I wonder about your claim, and wonder whether the corollary is also true - that what we see does exist. I raise it as a question - just as it may not be true that what we do not see does not exist (ie it is there, but we don't see it), so it may not be true that what we do see does exist (ie it is not there, but we think we see it). Thus we come back to my question. Forgive me, but I still haven't seen anything which I think answers this question - what is your methodology? What tools will you use to determine what can and cannot be seen in the text because it truly is or is not there? You have made claims about the intentionality and meaning of the text, things which you see in it, but haven't yet demonstrated that what you think you see is actually there.

                              I will be happy to discuss Mk.4 with you when I have some idea of the tools you are using. The question you ask, as to whether or not it is reasonable for Jesus to have offered the parable without the explanation, invites another lit-crit answer. I suspect that you are not saitisfied with that as a methodology, so please explain why (again) you are asking a question which invites a method which you have suggested is inadequate, and what methodology you are offering in its place?

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


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                            • Bob Schacht
                              ... Ah! Not so. It is in the nature of your eye-balls that you cannot see it. The eyeballs of other critters are perfectly capable of seeing it. In fact there
                              Message 14 of 17 , Jun 27, 2005
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                                At 12:21 PM 6/26/2005, Tony Buglass wrote:

                                >Is it ever possible to be truly objective in the way we read the texts? I
                                >know - the best critical method will be as objective as possible, thus
                                >enabling scholars to eliminate as much subjective judgement as possible,
                                >etc. Well, as I said a few emails ago, so far none of the much-vaunted
                                >methodologies or criteria have enabled a consensus, and I would say that
                                >is in part due to the presuppositions of the scholars involved and in part
                                >due to the limitations of the method. For example, we have discussed
                                >historical method on this list as a scientific methodology, and have come
                                >to the conclusion ISTM that while historical study is scientific it is not
                                >the same kind of science as physics or chemistry, but more like geology in
                                >that normal experimiental method is not appropriate.
                                >
                                >Your comment "what we see does not exist" echoes my comment a few days ago
                                >concerning possible weaknesses of historical critical method where it
                                >assumes that the supernatural does not exist, and therefore always seeks a
                                >reductve explanation for alleged supernatural events or narratives. As I
                                >said then, this is often akin to my claiming that infra-red does not
                                >exist, because I can't see it. The weakness of the claim is that it is
                                >circular - it is in the nature of infra-red that I cannot see it.

                                Ah! Not so. It is in the nature of your eye-balls that you cannot see it.
                                The eyeballs of other critters are perfectly capable of seeing it. In fact
                                there was recently a weird bioform reported that has evolved in the darkest
                                depths of the sea that has enabled it apparently to "see" infrared glow
                                from volcanic hotspots. But whether or not I misremember the details of
                                that story, the limitation is due to your eyes, not to infrared.

                                We can carry the metaphor even further. We all know that some people are
                                color blind. We know it, because we can see a color that they can't. But
                                think about it from their point of view. They hear us talking about stuff
                                they can't see. What are they to make of this thing that their senses do
                                not reveal to them, that we claim exists?

                                Which perhaps is a decent metaphor for this discussion anyway-- the
                                limitation may not be in the data itself as much as our ability to perceive
                                it and make sense of it. It is OUR 'sensory organs' (in a general sense)
                                that limit us. This could be the case with some as yet unknown method of
                                analysis, or simply the inability of historical methods, as presently
                                conceived, to "see" the supernatural at work in history.

                                > So I wonder about your claim, and wonder whether the corollary is also
                                > true - that what we see does exist. I raise it as a question - just as
                                > it may not be true that what we do not see does not exist (ie it is
                                > there, but we don't see it), so it may not be true that what we do see
                                > does exist (ie it is not there, but we think we see it). ...

                                Any proofreader can tell you that our minds will fill in missing words in a
                                sentence, or will "see" the right spelling of a word in place of the wrong
                                spelling that is there on the page. I can't proofread the my own documents
                                more than a couple of times because I know what's supposed to be there, so
                                our minds-- especially when fatigued-- "see" what isn't there.

                                Same is probably true with Biblical texts. Show a fundamentalist certain
                                Bible passages and they will "see" God's hand at work at the slightest of
                                suggestions, because they are predisposed to see such things. They will
                                "read into" a text things that don't seem to be there, to an atheist.

                                Bob



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                              • Tony Buglass
                                Joseph wrote: I think our exchanges were quite interesting and very helpful. They forced me to clarify my position and to recognize the difficulties I had to
                                Message 15 of 17 , Jun 28, 2005
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                                  Joseph wrote:
                                  I think our exchanges were quite interesting and very
                                  helpful. They forced me to clarify my position and to recognize the
                                  difficulties I had to deal with. So I wish to thank you for your
                                  questions as well as your patience.

                                  Well, we aim to please! :) And I've learned a great deal from the conversations on this list - I don't consider myself an expert by any means. So let's keep on digging, and perhaps we'll find gold.

                                  Joseph:
                                  I assume that there is a coded language behind the clear
                                  intentionality of the text. The coded language remains invisible to the
                                  naked eye. As a matter of fact it has remained invisible to the readers
                                  of the gospel for the last two thousand years. This is why I speak of a
                                  new discovery. The discovery concerns something that had been there all
                                  the time, but that had remained unrecognized.

                                  I'll try to answer your discussion in the other post under its own heading, but this is close to the heart of the matter, I think. When I see the word "assume", it makes me sit up and take notice. When I see the claim that you have found something which hasn't been recognised for 2,000 years, my antennae start twitching - there's something running here which I don't understand. Hence my earlier questions about methodology - what have you seen which makes you suspect a *coded* language? Especially a coded language which nobody else has seen? And a language which isn't susceptible to already accepted means of examination?

                                  By way of analogy, I have a book on my shelves intended to throw light on the hard sayings of Jesus. It is written by a Jewish Christian, who believes that many of the so-called hard sayings are only hard because Gentile readers haven't learned to see Jewish meanings in the text. At an academic level, that has been the case with the discovery (rediscovery?) of midrash. I was never introduced to the word when I did my Bristol BA back in the 1970s. Since then, it has become an important key - John Spong thinks it explains everything we need to understand about the resurrection traditions, and Karel Hanhart thinks it is the key to Mark's Gospel. New knowledge? It certainly was. But it arose through good methodology, and has been validated by good methodology.

                                  Now, the reason why I twitch at claims to new knowledge is because I've read too many daft exposes along the lines of the Da Vinci Code - there is usually someone who will dig out something which nobody has ever seen before, and this is the New Truth, or someone who will claim that They don't want you to know This. I don't think you are a popularist heretic schismatic, Joseph, which is why I think you must have good reasons for claiming a new knowledge. If someone wantsto take me into deep water, i want to know why. If he tells me there is a creature in Loch Ness, I'll tell him I've heard that one before. If he shows me sonar traces, then I'm interested in how he got them, and what they might mean. Then I'm interested. So far, you've told me you think there's something down there. I'm looking where you're pointing, but I can still only see what I've usually seen in there. (Thinks - are we back to reflections in the well?) I'm still waiting for you to show me why what we think we're seeing isn't what you think you can see.

                                  Cheers,
                                  Rev Tony Buglass
                                  Superintendent Minister
                                  Upper Calder Methodist Circuit
                                  W Yorks
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                                • Karel Hanhart
                                  ... Tony, it is OK to be skeptical. I am not asking you to believe without ... My comment (KH) on this invitation is as follows: I have read with sympathy
                                  Message 16 of 17 , Jun 29, 2005
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                                    > Joseph Codsi wrote to Tony Buglass:

                                    Tony, it is OK to be skeptical. I am not asking you to believe without
                                    > seeing. But if you want to see, you will have to do some work. You
                                    > cannot see by remaining where you are. If the diving analogy is not good
                                    > enough, I will take another one, borrowed from the story of Philip and
                                    > Nathanael.

                                    > ***Philip found Nathanael and said to him, "We have found him about whom
                                    > Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from
                                    > Nazareth." Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of
                                    > Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."*** (John 1:45-46)
                                    >
                                    > Nathanael took the necessary steps to go and see for himself. But I can
                                    > think of some people who would not investigate Paul's claim about the
                                    > resurrection. The Athenians stopped listening to Paul. They had heard
                                    > enough to dismiss his views as tales and fables.
                                    >
                                    > The closing of the mind is a formidable problem. I cannot overcome it.
                                    > You are the only one who can give me the benefit of the doubt and open
                                    > up to a new possibility. So I invite you to come and see first. You will
                                    > have the opportunity to judge the evidence and reject it "en
                                    > connaissance de cause".

                                    My comment (KH) on this invitation is as follows:
                                    I have read with sympathy Joseph Codsi's passionate plea for trying a new
                                    approach to interpret the Gospel's text, even though the exegesis may turn
                                    out to be quite unconventional. This holds certainly true for the early
                                    Christians' faith in Jesus' resurrection. So I am bold enough to ask for
                                    his answer to a new approach to Mark's interpretation of the resurrection, a
                                    question I also posed today to John Lupia on Synoptic-L regarding Mark's
                                    opened tomb story :

                                    >To sum it all up, John, would you agree Mark was citing [in the tomb story]
                                    >the Greek texts of Isa 22,16; 33,16 and Gen 29, 2ff.?

                                    cordially

                                    Karel H.


                                    Joseph had written:

                                    > I downloaded this morning an article by Philip Davis entitled: **Do We
                                    > Need Biblical Scholars?** (Jim West had recommended it). I found the
                                    > paper very interesting. It raises the question of research in the Bible
                                    > field (ancient and new Testaments). Please read the following paragraph.
                                    >
                                    > <<My colleagues and I at the Department of Biblical Studies in the
                                    > University of Sheffield were once visited by a senior academic
                                    > administrator as part of his duties in keeping abreast of research
                                    > activity. How, he asked, did we (could we) conduct research on the
                                    > Bible? Surely it had been written long ago and was presumably complete.
                                    > After two thousand years of scrutiny, was there much left to say? This
                                    > was the challenge from a fellow academic, an intellectual (albeit
                                    > churchgoing). The idea of the Bible as an object of academic research
                                    > (rather than presumably an elevated form of Sunday-school teaching) was
                                    > not something he could easily comprehend. His ignorance was not
                                    > facetious, but (more frighteningly) genuine.>>
                                    >
                                    > As I see it, there are two problems with Bible academic research. One is
                                    > religious prejudice; the other one is academic prejudice. Both are a
                                    > hindrance to research. Both have to do with the closing of the mind. A
                                    > closed mind rejects a priori certain possibilities, simply because it
                                    > finds them unacceptable. It is relatively easy to recognize the problems
                                    > religious faith can have with certain findings of biblical research. It
                                    > is more difficult to recognize similar problems rooted in academic
                                    > prejudices. The pioneering road is always a lonely one. Those who would
                                    > not follow the beaten tracks of the established schools (who identify
                                    > themselves as academia) must swim against the main current of the day.
                                    > We are naturally allergic to what questions the way we see and judge.
                                    > Scholars can have bitter disputes among themselves. This is part of the
                                    > human condition. Disagreements are the engines of research.
                                    >
                                    > As long as you feel somehow threatened by what I am saying, you are
                                    > likely to close your mind to it in a protective move. Fear is beyond our
                                    > control. If you are afraid of diving, this can mean that you are not
                                    > ready for what I have found. Now what I have discovered is twofold. On
                                    > the one hand, I have discovered something concerning the historical
                                    > Jesus: as far as the disciples are concerned, he acted as if he knew
                                    > nothing of the Easter revelation. This point became a big stumbling
                                    > block for the disciples, once they had become witnesses of the
                                    > resurrection. On the other hand, I recognize the shortcomings of the
                                    > historical critical method and the need to open up to a
                                    > psychopathological analysis of the disciples' behavior. The way they
                                    > speak of themselves in the gospel of Mark shows that they had a serious
                                    > problem. When an eyewitness is forced to change what he had seen and
                                    > heard, to the point of inventing events that had never taken place (the
                                    > triple prediction of the Easter event), the said witness cannot be
                                    > considered normal.
                                    >
                                    > If you find what I am saying here disturbing, and if you are afraid of
                                    > diving in the murky waters of the Markan pond, you should abstain from
                                    > doing so. I do not know what is bothering you most, the methodology or
                                    > the findings that are based on it. Maybe you should relax and sit back.
                                    > Let someone else dive with me.
                                    >
                                    > There was a time when I used to be critical of those who seemed naive to
                                    > me and continued to believe in fairytales. I realize now that there are
                                    > a lot of things that are beyond our control. This is particularly true
                                    > of what goes on in our mind. We can be rational only to a certain extent
                                    > and in relation to what goes on on the conscious level. Deep down, we
                                    > find ourselves in a pre-rational world, where our feelings are the rule.
                                    > They control us; we do not control them. We cannot be held responsible
                                    > for what controls us. It makes no sense to argue about what is beyond
                                    > our control. The only rational thing to do is to notice our differences
                                    > and respect them.
                                    >
                                    > This does not mean that we are stuck in our respective prejudices. We
                                    > can pass from the unconscious to the conscious. We can become aware of
                                    > our prejudices. This is what initiations accomplish. Initiations are
                                    > always an ordeal. They revolutionize the way we look at certain things.
                                    > But initiations are always partial and incomplete. Nowadays things are
                                    > changing so fast we go through many initiations during our life.
                                    >
                                    > Diving in the murky waters of the Markan pond is an initiation. New
                                    > knowledge and methodology will be introduced. There is here a double
                                    > ordeal, one related to the faith and another one related to the
                                    > scholarly profession. On both accounts we will have to revise our views
                                    > and move in a new direction.
                                    >
                                    > * * *
                                    >
                                    > **The Tibetan Book of the Dead** is a ritual which purports to accompany
                                    > the dead person on the final journey to the other world. Death is
                                    > conceived of as the final and great initiation into the new life. The
                                    > ritual consists in helping the person who has just died overcome the
                                    > ordeals of the great initiation. The dead person is assaulted by
                                    > frightening spirits. But those spirits are illusory. The best way to
                                    > overcome our fears is to recognize their illusory nature.
                                    >
                                    > The fears that can paralyze us today are of the same nature. They cease
                                    > to frighten us when we become aware of their illusory nature. In the
                                    > same way, our prejudices cease to control our mind, when we realize our
                                    > error. What is so catastrophic if we recognized that the historical
                                    > critical method has its limitations? Why oppose the combination of more
                                    > than one method?
                                    >
                                    > It is true that the Easter revelation recognized in Jesus the one "about
                                    > whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote". But the Easter faith
                                    > is based on what the disciples believed after the death of Jesus. If the
                                    > same disciples had not detected, during his life, anything that
                                    > anticipated this faith, and if they had to alter the historical facts in
                                    > order to confirm their faith, then they would have had a serious
                                    > problem. Traces of that problem are found in their own testimony as it
                                    > has been preserved in the gospel of Mark.
                                    >
                                    > When I speak of coded language, I do not speak of an intentional coding,
                                    > but of a language where the unconscious reveals itself in a subtle way.
                                    > This interpretation allows me to recognize two things at the same time.
                                    > The first one is that the disciples have invented the triple prediction
                                    > of the Easter event. The second one is that they admit that the
                                    > prediction never took place. The triple prediction is theologically true
                                    > and historically false. I conclude that the triple prediction is not an
                                    > historical event, but solely a theological event. A theological event is
                                    > an event that is a logical consequence of the Easer faith, in as much as
                                    > the said faith requires that the historical Jesus and the resurrected
                                    > Christ be one and the same person.
                                    >
                                    > Peace,
                                    >
                                    > Joseph
                                    > ================
                                    > Joseph Codsi
                                    > P.O. Box 116-2088
                                    > Beirut, Lebanon
                                    > Telephone (961) 1 423 145
                                    > joseph5@...
                                    >
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                                  • Tony Buglass
                                    I m not sure exactly where to start in addressing your latest post, Joseph. Sometimes I think I m trying to wrestle with a jelly-fish - just when I thought
                                    Message 17 of 17 , Jun 30, 2005
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                                      I'm not sure exactly where to start in addressing your latest post, Joseph. Sometimes I think I'm trying to wrestle with a jelly-fish - just when I thought I'd got a good grip, it's wobbled away. I've tried several times to frame a specific question to enable us to open up the matter of methodology. To date, I don't think you've given me a clear answer. Unless it's just me being thick - other listers may care to comment (kindly, of course!).

                                      In the first place, fear is not an issue. I am not afraid of the stuff you are writing, I am trying very hard to get a grip on it so that I can use it. So let's not go down that road, it isn't relevant. I am not threatened by the discussions on this list (or I would have found a more amenable list, wouldn't I?) I have long believed as a Christian that the prior commitment is to truth - if that means changing or modifying my views on God, or the BIble, or the doctrines I have been led to believe, well, OK - been there, done that, got the T-shirt.

                                      In the second place, prejudices and closed mind - well, I've been accused of that many times by some of my more fundamentalist acquaintances. Something is so very clear to them that anyone who disagrees with them must be closed minded. It dosn't occur to them that the vies I hold (and continually explore and develop) are held because of prior study and prior knowledge. That will always be open to scrutiny and re-evaluation, I hope, but it doesn't just go away. Historical critical method does have its limitations (I think I said that several posts ago) but that doesn't mean it's useless or will quietly go away. So while the alleged new knowledge that you offer may brin a crit of historical-critical method, it will itself also be open to criticism by that same method. There must be a dialogue in this, mustn't there? So why don't you answer the questions posed by my end of the dialogue?

                                      So never mind the Tibetan Book of the Dead - I'm not Tibetan, and as far as I know, I'm not dead. Let's cut to the action, and you tell me what methodology you use to reveal the evidence which gives you your new knowledge. Thus far, as I have said a few times, you seem to me to have started from stuff which is common in historical critical scholarship. Some of your assertions remain to be examined further - so for example when you talk about the way the disciples speak in GMark, how do you know that is the way the disciples really did speak, and how far is it redactional or dramatic reconstruction by Mark? This is akin to a tendency arising from the 19th C liberal lives of Jesus to draw conclusions about his psychology, an approach which was demolished by Bultmann and others, who demonstrated that we have nothing which can be directly attributed to Jesus without passing through the theological and redactional filters of gospel tradition. Is this really to become a quest for the historical disciples? So how do you intend to overcome the problems inherent in the evidence?

                                      I'm very happy to swim in these waters, and to dive as deep as you want - as long as you can show me that there really are fish worth hunting, and not just the same bubbles I can already see, and as long as you can show me how to dive. That's what I mean by methodology.

                                      So, please, Joseph, give me some answers.

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