Re: [XTalk] The parable of the sower
- Jeffrey will make his own response to your reply, Joseph, but I want to chip in with a quick comment (being 5 hours ahead of the US means I get in first! :))
I don't consider myself a professional but an amateur. My personal
library is very small. In what pertains to gospel scholarship, I live in
a part of the world which is still proud of its medieval heritage. Our
good Christians are not different from our good Muslims. We are
interested in Western technology, not in Western thought.
There is a wide range of people on this list, ranging from "professional theologians" working in universities with all those facilities open to them (what, envious, me?) through those who are professional theologians like me, ie working in the field, but as a working minister I don't have access to all the facilities of university libraries or the time to use them, and there are quite a few who are professionals in other fields but are interested in the study of HJ and bring their own disciplines and skills to bear on the subject. We all have various restrictions and limitations on our work in the field, and so we have to work with each other to learn from each other. As I said last week, that has been for me one of the great values of this list.
Middle-Eastern thinkers may be inclined to dismiss Western thought, but if you wish to engage with a subject of this nature, you need to at least understand it. To say you are an amateur in no way disqualifies you from this kind of study, but it doesn't mean you don't have to obey the rules of the discipline. I have some interest in medicine, but am strictly amateur in the field - I wouldn't dream of telling my GP he is wrong, or disagreeing with a hospital consultant on his diagnosis unless I have access to data which actually falsifies his analysis. And even then, I think I'd be very tentative, because I don't know the significance of the data concerned. My new information may in fact mean nothing.
To say you do not have access to the texts which have been recommended doesn't mean you can ignore the conversations which have already taken place. I may disagree with Bultmann, but I cannot simply ignore him, because he is still an influential voice in NT studies. His work has changed the landscape in such a way that I need to know what he talked about in order to converse intelligently in the field. The same can be said for many. I'm sure the same is true in any discipline, including your own - which you have not yet disclosed to us, despite my asking for some clue as to the professional expertise which you bring to the conversation. You have now told us you're retired. From what? It might help me to understand where you're coming from.
Can I suggest that you do some reading around the subject online? Mark Goodacre's NT Gateway is a good starting point, and you could try http://info.ox.ac.uk/ctitext/theology as a useful online directory for all sorts of material.
If your aim is to engage with scholars to persuade them of your theory, you do need to justify teh grounds for your theory. I don't think you have yet begin to do so.
Rev Tony Buglass
Upper Calder Methodist Circuit
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- Reply to Tony Buglass
I know that our personal background can affect the way we think. Would
it be helpful if I told you that I used to be a fundamentalist and that
I have changed later my theological orientation? I have done a lot of
things in my life, but what I say today about the parable of the sower
has nothing to do with what I did in the past. Example: I worked in the
early eighties as vice president of a small oil company, headquartered
in Tulsa, Oklahoma. I had the pompous title of financial officer, but I
was neither a financial expert nor an oil engineer. I got the job
through personal connections, not on account of my diplomas. I had at
that time my own real estate company, based in Hartford, Connecticut,
and I used to commute between Hartford and Tulsa on a weekly basis.
Right here in Lebanon, my main interest is political. I am very critical
of our political system. I think that our conception of the State is
nonsensical. When people hear me say so, they ask me, "Where do you come
from?" I tell them, "From Mars." When someone does not think within the
received patterns, people seek an explanation in the man's background.
As a matter of fact, it is much easier for an outsider to be critical of
the specialists than for an insider. The outsider can see what the
insiders can not. Erudition is an asset; but it can be a handicap as
well. The accumulation of knowledge does not create new knowledge.
Creativity depends on the ability to introduce new ways of looking at
My interest in theology goes back to the days when I was in the Jesuit
order. Scripture was used then in the Catholic Church as an ancilla
theologiae. What I owe to those early years is the acquisition of a
critical mind. I had to leave the order, because I was becoming too
critical of it and of the Church. By the same token, I had to revise my
traditional education and reinvent the wheel. I became self-taught.
I spent most of my adult life in Europe and the States. Now I am back in
Lebanon. Although I find myself here, in some respect, as a foreigner in
one's own country, I like the challenge and I am pleased with what I am
doing. I think I can and should make a difference in the two fields, the
Lebanese political system and the quest for the historical Jesus.
It is out of the question to discuss the quest for the historical Jesus
right here in Lebanon. I find in discussion groups like XTalk a precious
opportunity. I second, therefore, what you said, Tony, about the good
things you owe to XTalk. Our exchanges helped me in redoing my
education. I am now comfortable enough with my thesis to defend it
before the jury of the group.
I realize as an afterthought that I should have started the introduction
of my theory with a comparative study of what is said about the
disciples in the pericope of the sower, on the one hand, and in the
pericope of the yeast, on the other. So I suggest we concentrate our
discussion on this topic. In the parable of the sower, the disciples are
treated as "insiders". In the incident of the yeast of the Pharisees,
they are treated as "outsiders". This apparent contradiction can be
easily resolved, when we ask the following question: "In relation to
what are they "insiders" and "outsiders". The first text makes it clear
that they are "insiders" in relation to the mystery of the Kingdom. The
second text is not as clear. But it puts an emphasis on the feedings of
the five and four thousand. The disciples' lack of understanding has to
do with this double event. The connection, however, is not clear.
Apparently the text induces us to believe that the double event had a
meaning in and of itself, and that the disciples were too blind to see
it. The problem is that we are not in a better position today. We do not
see what that special meaning could have been. This is why I have no
other alternative but to connect the feeding of the crowds with the
Eucharist. The disciples had not seen, during the life of Jesus, the
connection between the feeding of the crowds and the Eucharist.
Because the Eucharist is an integral part of the Christian revelation, I
conclude that the disciples were "outsiders" in relation to the
Christian mystery, symbolized by the Eucharist.
The disciples could not have openly admitted that Jesus had initiated
them to the mystery of the Kingdom, but not to the Christian mystery.
The only way they can admit the fact is indirectly and in the very
strange way they are doing it here.
In short, the disciples say openly that Jesus took good care of them and
initiated them into the mystery of the Kingdom of God. They say not so
openly and in an indirect way that Jesus had never initiated them into
the Christian mystery.
My theory is based on this discovery. It is confirmed by many texts.
Before moving to other texts, let us discuss the present ones.
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