Opinions are like . . .
- In a fit of frustration, caused in part by a most frustrating response
from Steven Avery which was sent to me off-list (because he suspected
its "quality" would not pass by the moderators?) and in which he
continues to let me talk past him, I've been given to wonder. . .
My mother always said, "The more you know, the more you realise you
don't know." Never were these words more true to me than when I
completed my PhD, after which I felt in many ways I knew less than when
I had finished my MA, both in NT studies. She also said, "A little
knowledge is a dangerous thing."
Is there something inherent to religion that makes people feel
qualified to have an opinion? I encounter this in classrooms, on
mass-transit, in bars: everyone feels qualified to spout off their
position on some issue pertaining to religion. And worse yet, if
they've done "a little reading," they're suddenly experts, and they
feel free to question your own considerably studied position! What is
it about religion that produces such a large number of untrained or
self-trained (usually synonymous) *experts* in the field?
Or to put it another way, what does it say about ME that it would never
occur to me to challenge a professional scholar's opinion on quantum
mechanics, surgical procedure, some aspect of engineering in any of it
manifestations, or even (getting closer things I've actually
encountered at various points in my education) on the kinship
structures of aboriginal peoples in New Guinea, archeological evidence
of any period and people, the authorship of "Shakespeare's" works,
whether supply-side economics results in social justice, etc. Even
less would it occur to me to think I was qualified to overturn / reject
the consensus of these fields with my own untrained opinions.
This is not a plea to blindly follow the authorities; I do not see
myself as the new priesthood. But if doctoral level engagement with
material was pointless, if you could gain the same degree of knowledge
and perspective with "a little reading" presumably the entire regime of
doctoral training would fall apart. I suspect that the rewards of the
process are only truly understood by those who have undergone it, which
probably fuels the popular sentiment that "a little reading," or
following the cutting edge work of Internet "scholars" in chat rooms,
or closely reading the Authorized version of King James himself --
after all, if the KJV was good enough for Jesus it's good enough for
Steven Avery --, can bring you up to speed with the professionals.
This is also not a claim that the untrained cannot make intelligent
comments -- I'm sure I can too on subjects I'm not trained in. It's
more a question about how the topic of religion appears to invite all
these untrained specialists.
A word of warning: I'm not interested in splitting hairs on the
terminology or categories I've used, whether "rule" is the best word,
and what the definition of 'is' is. But I'll respond to posts that
keep to the broad brush strokes I've used here. Presumably my terms
and categories are comprehensible as they stand and the phenomenon I
point out is well known.
Assistant Professor, Religion
1125 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, ON, K1S 5B6
613-520-2600, ext. 2276
On Sat, October 8, 2005 1:30 am, Bob Schacht wrote:
"Your last sentence is missing a very important word: "known"
sources.) About the only thing we can be sure of is that we do NOT have all
of the Jewish sources contemporary to Jesus. Furthermore, texts
were scribal copies, which just about guarantees that every copy will be
different in some way. Furthermore, the selection of copies available in
Galilee might be somewhat different than the copies available in Jerusalem
Touche, but are you perhaps suggesting that the quote on Jesus' lips on
this passage (I know it was like last week and I took long to answer, let
me refresh your memory: Mark 2:23-29; Matthew 12:1-8; Luke 6:1-5) may
reflect knowledge of an alternate version (mention different person as
high priest) than the one we know?
"Interesting point, if we could be sure that Mark was Matthew's *only*
source for that pericope. Besides, have you compared the Septuagint version
with the Hebrew version for any relevant differences? Both versions might
have been available to Jesus (or Mark, or Matthew)."
What could have been another source with that pericope that Mark could
have used? I'm not aware of any fragments independent of the Synoptics
with this pericope, do you know of any? (Honest question). As for the
greek and hebrew, I am by no means a linguistic expert (I haven't had the
chance to learn any greek in my undergrad training), but I'm going to
pull on my source for this problem, John P. Meir's "Plucking Grain on the
Sabbath" (CBQ, 66 2004):
"Still more embarrassing is the error about the identity of the priest to
whom David speaks at Nob. BOTH THE HEBREW AND GREEK FORMS of 1 Sam
21:2 make clear that the priest David addresses is 'Ahimelech the
priest'; his name is repeated vv.3 and 9 (MT). No other individual priest
is mentioned... There is, therefore, no basis in the OT text of this
story for the mistake the Marcan Jesus makes in claiming the 'High
Priest'- this somewhat anachronistic title does not occur in this OT
story- in charge at the time was 'Abiathar'...[he] at least according to
the most reliable OT tradition, was the son of Ahimelech, with whom the
Markan Jesus has confused him...the recounting of the incident of David
and Ahimelech shows both a glaring ignorance of what the OT text actually
says and a striking inability to costruct a convincing argument from the
story." my caps.
"Yeah, and even more weirdly, if Mark made it up, why did he
"botch" the job?"
You know, that's real tricky. If a tradition of Jesus having quoted that
passage in the way presented came by Mark, and he had either a Septuagint
or a Hebrew bible on hand (pure conjecture on my part), why did he allow
it to go past the radar? If the tradition did not exist beforehand, and
Mark constructed it based on his/her(?) use of scripture, how could he
make such a blunder? One possibility that came up when I brought this up
with Prof. Smith is that perhaps Jesus was quoting based on oral
tradition, and that perhaps that way he got the names wrong. But it still
kind of doesn't explain where he got the name of Ahimelech's son. Another
"To the extent that Jesus had a literate education at all, it seems to
have been an irregular one."
In what sense? What do you mean by "irregular"? I myself have been
thinking of a "minimalist" option to this issue. Maybe Jesus just got a
low-level, non-scholarly education concerning scripture, interested in
only the specific laws of Torah and the broader themes of the TNKH's
message: God's kingship/authority and the covenant relationship. It could
be something akin to going to church without reading the bible from time
to time. People in the olden days who didn't have access to a bible went
to church and heard both the specifics of the faith (You must attain
salvation through Jesus Christ) and broader themes of the NT's message.
Again, pure concecture on my part.
"Oh, please. Such dichotomies might please Crossan (and maybe your mentor),
but historical research is seldom so black and white. Your
quot;passage" contains many elements, some of which might be
historical, others not. We do not have to take or leave the passage as a
Forgive me, perhaps I should have been more specific in what I meant by
"passage": Did Jesus actually quote 1 Sam 21:2 in such a manner or was it
read back into his lips? If he did say such a thing, what would it mean
concerning his education? If it was read back into his lips, what would
the intent of the evangelist be (setting aside the idea of an exegetical
blunder for a moment)? And what could we make of Matthew and Luke's
elimination of all mention of a high priest or Abiathar? Please consider
these question on hermeneutical grounds, I won't demand that you "take a
stand" on these issues. What are the possibilities, and what are their
Maybe the question might be discussed anthropologically? What
possibilities/chances for education would there have been in 1st c
Hope to debate some more!
Henry Rutgers Scholar (Psychology and Religion)
New Brunswick NJ 08901
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