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Re: [XTalk] myth vs. history

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  • Jim West
    ... What I mean is that any God who can be confined to historical categories, investigation, or scientific discovery, isn t really any sort of God at all. God
    Message 1 of 21 , Dec 6, 2005
      Lisbeth S Fried wrote:
      > Dear Jim,
      >
      > Could you please explain what you mean here?
      >
      > Any God that can
      > be confined to history isn't worth worshipping.
      >

      What I mean is that any God who can be confined to historical
      categories, investigation, or scientific discovery, isn't really any
      sort of God at all. God can't be put under a microscope- and anything
      that can be put under a microscope isn't God.

      Best

      Jim

      --
      D. Jim West
      Biblical Studies Resources - http://web.infoave.net/~jwest
      Biblical Theology Weblog - http://biblical-studies.blogspot.com
    • Daniel J. Gaztambide
      Dear Everyone, I can t help but to both agree and disagree with Jim West. On the one hand I emphathize with his assertion that God can t be put under a
      Message 2 of 21 , Dec 6, 2005
        Dear Everyone,

        I can't help but to both agree and disagree with Jim West. On the one
        hand I emphathize with his assertion that "God can't be put under a
        microscope- and anything that can be put under a microscope isn't God."

        On the other, I can't help but notice that many religious traditions
        (including Christianity) make very strong historical claims, historical
        in the sense that they actually took place. Among them are healing
        miracles- God takes an action upon the body of a human being. I would
        agree with Jim West that God Him/Her/It-self could not be studied (How
        would you go about that? Try to capture God-molecules?), but these
        effects upon the "material world" might lend themselves to scientific
        study.

        For example, I'm working on a paper examining the healing miracles of
        Jesus. Within most historical reconstructions the question of miracles
        are bracketed outside and allowed an agnostic isolation. The reports
        within the NT tell us that in many cases people came to Jesus asking for
        healing, he asks them if they believe, they reply positively, and he
        declares them healed. Could their faith truly have healed their bodies?

        Now usually this is when we go "myth and history are interwined" and we
        can't study this phenomena. Recent research in psychoneuroimmunology,
        however, has shown that a belief can actually have an effect upon a
        person's physiology, from averting disease to causing or allowing greater
        susceptivility to a disease. With this kind of material as hermeneutic
        lens, we could theoretically study the healing miracles.

        God as a transcendental reality seems outside the realm of microscopes
        and test tubes... but what about the effects of this reality upon our
        reality? What might be gained or lost by trying to study THAT?

        Best,

        -Daniel J. Gaztambide

        On Tue, December 6, 2005 11:27 am, Jim West wrote:
        >
        >
        > Lisbeth S Fried wrote:
        > > Dear Jim,
        > >
        > > Could you please explain what you mean here?
        > >
        > > Any God that can
        > > be confined to history isn't worth worshipping.
        > >
        >
        > What I mean is that any God who can be confined to historical
        > categories, investigation, or scientific discovery, isn't really any
        > sort of God at all. God can't be put under a microscope- and anything
        > that can be put under a microscope isn't God.
        >
        > Best
        >
        > Jim
        >
        > --
        > D. Jim West
        > Biblical Studies Resources - http://web.infoave.net/~jwest
        > Biblical Theology Weblog - http://biblical-studies.blogspot.com
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        --
        Daniel Gaztambide

        http://profiles.yahoo.com/priestwguns777

        Henry Rutgers Scholar (Psychology and Religion)
        Rutgers University
        New Brunswick NJ 08901
        31045 RPO Way

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        ---
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      • Stephen C. Carlson
        ... I ve only glanced at the first two references, and they appear to describe making eunuchs. As this area is not exactly my specialty, I cannot really say
        Message 3 of 21 , Dec 6, 2005
          At 10:37 AM 12/6/2005 -0500, Tim Crosby wrote:
          >Does anyone know whether sex-change operations were performed in the Roman
          >Empire in the first century?
          >
          >I stumbled upon the following three passages which seem to me to imply this:
          >Justin Martyr, Apology, 27
          >Philo Leg. 3:41
          >Diodorus Siculus 32.10-12
          >
          >Have I misinterpreted the texts?
          >Do you know of any other passages in the primary literature?
          >Do you know of any discussion in the secondary literature?

          I've only glanced at the first two references, and they appear
          to describe making eunuchs. As this area is not exactly my
          specialty, I cannot really say much more of any use, but there
          is a recent article in the Journal for the Study of the New
          Testament presenting a lot of background about eunuchs in Roman
          antiquity that may prove helpful to you:

          J. David Hester, "Eunuchs and the Postgender Jesus: Matthew
          19.12 and Transgressive Sexualities," JSNT 28.1 (2005): 13-40.

          Stephen Carlson
          --
          Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
          Weblog: http://www.hypotyposeis.org/weblog/
          Author of: The Gospel Hoax, http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1932792481
        • John C. Poirier
          ... Wouldn t it be better to say that such a God isn t really the God of *classical theism*, but he/she could be the God of biblical theism? John C. Poirier
          Message 4 of 21 , Dec 6, 2005
            Jim West wrote:

            > . . . [A]ny God who can be confined to historical
            > categories, investigation, or scientific discovery, isn't really any
            > sort of God at all. God can't be put under a microscope- and anything
            > that can be put under a microscope isn't God.

            Wouldn't it be better to say that such a God isn't really the God of
            *classical theism*, but he/she could be the God of biblical theism?


            John C. Poirier
          • Tony Buglass
            Jim wrote: No- that is not correct. Bultmann s program wasn t demythologizing anyway, it was remythologizing (since thats what Entmythologieserung
            Message 5 of 21 , Dec 6, 2005
              Jim wrote:
              No- that is not correct. Bultmann's program wasn't "demythologizing"
              anyway, it was "remythologizing" (since thats what
              "Entmythologieserung" means- or at least what it meant to Bultmann).

              Tony:
              Well, I argued years ago that he was really re-mythologising, because he did
              interpret the Gospel into what he understaood as 20th C terms, which were
              defined by his existentialism. However, not to nit-pick, but that is not
              what the word means. "Ent" means "from", which becomes "de" rather than
              "re" as a prefix.


              Jim:
              Bultmann is often wrongly accused of a destructive, anti-gospelism but
              nothing could be further from the truth. ... So far as Bultmann's alledged
              disbelief is concerned (snipped) Bultmann stood at the entrance of the
              Church in Marburg
              nearly every Sunday, holding the box for the collection benefitting the
              poor. He was a pious man. Not a pagan man

              Tony:
              Agreed.

              Jim:
              Bultmann's attidtude towards the historical reconstruction of the
              historical Jesus was skepticism- because he did not view it as essential
              for faith. He was, of course, quite correct in this. Any God that can
              be confined to history isn't worth worshipping. [snipped] ... the
              fundamentalists whose whole faith
              requires history since it is really faith in history rather than faith
              in Christ

              Tony:
              Perhaps the emotive (and misrepresentative) words are "confined to history"
              and "faith in history". If God has chosen to become involved in history
              (which is what incarnation means, and part of the whole HJ question, I
              reckon), then history is important to the questions.

              You have re-affrimed the point I was trying to make, that Bultmann's
              understanding of myth mor or less determined itself as non-historical, and I
              still think Pannenberg successfully refuted that position.

              Cheers,
              Tony
            • Bob Schacht
              ... This discussion is in danger of veering off topic, but let me bring it back by focusing on what we mean by history. Various meanings are adduced, e.g. *
              Message 6 of 21 , Dec 6, 2005
                Jim West wrote:

                > . . . [A]ny God who can be confined to historical
                > categories, investigation, or scientific discovery, isn't really any
                > sort of God at all. God can't be put under a microscope- and anything
                > that can be put under a microscope isn't God.

                This discussion is in danger of veering off topic, but let me bring it back
                by focusing on what we mean by "history." Various meanings are adduced, e.g.
                * History is "what happened." i.e., history is reality through time,
                however imperfectly it may be perceived by humans.
                * History is whatever people have decided to remember and record, e.g.,
                history is written by the victors, and is therefore biased.
                * History is the verifiable record of what happened, or whatever it is
                that Jim West means when he says history, which seems to be different from
                the previous bullets.
                The first bulletted meaning above can also be aligned as the *goal*. The
                second bullet refers to the data from which history is written, while the
                third bullet is the data of history filtered through some particular system
                of understanding. For example, "history" is whatever professional
                historians say it is.

                There are probably other meanings, too. These do matter, because it has a
                bearing on what we mean by the "historical" Jesus. This always comes up,
                implicitly or explicitly, when the subject of miracles comes up. By Jim's
                reckoning, if I understand him correctly, miracles cannot be historical,
                even if they happened. You can see how this can get discussions all fouled
                up with misunderstandings.

                Bob
                University of Hawaii


                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • John C. Poirier
                ... Bob, I agree that the confusion is terminological, but it goes beyond the definitions that you give. Part of the problem lies within the twentieth-century
                Message 7 of 21 , Dec 6, 2005
                  Bob Schacht wrote:

                  > This discussion is in danger of veering off topic, but let me bring it
                  > back by focusing on what we mean by "history." Various meanings are
                  > adduced, e.g.
                  > * History is "what happened." i.e., history is reality through time,
                  > however imperfectly it may be perceived by humans.
                  > * History is whatever people have decided to remember and record,
                  > e.g., history is written by the victors, and is therefore biased.
                  > * History is the verifiable record of what happened, or whatever it is
                  > that Jim West means when he says history, which seems to be different from
                  > the previous bullets.

                  Bob,

                  I agree that the confusion is terminological, but it goes beyond the
                  definitions that you give. Part of the problem lies within the
                  twentieth-century platonizing trajectory, which differentiates between
                  "being" and "existence" (a distinction that comes out of classical theism,
                  but not biblical theism), aligning God with the former and history with the
                  latter. This of course is a much bigger problem with Karl Barth's theology
                  (and with today's postliberals, etc.), but I fear it also lies behind
                  Bultmann's stance.


                  John C. Poirier
                • Lisbeth S. Fried
                  I would have thought that any God that was not manifest in history was totally pointless. Liz Fried Ann Arbor _____ From: crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com
                  Message 8 of 21 , Dec 6, 2005
                    I would have thought that any God that was not manifest in history was
                    totally pointless.

                    Liz Fried

                    Ann Arbor

                    _____

                    From: crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com [mailto:crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com] On
                    Behalf Of John C. Poirier
                    Sent: Tuesday, December 06, 2005 1:41 PM
                    To: crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com
                    Subject: RE: [XTalk] myth vs. history



                    Jim West wrote:

                    > . . . [A]ny God who can be confined to historical
                    > categories, investigation, or scientific discovery, isn't really any
                    > sort of God at all. God can't be put under a microscope- and anything
                    > that can be put under a microscope isn't God.

                    Wouldn't it be better to say that such a God isn't really the God of
                    *classical theism*, but he/she could be the God of biblical theism?


                    John C. Poirier




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                  • Bob Schacht
                    ... Of course. This is the perspective of the writers of the Tanakh, which considers history to be what happened in the past. In the strong sense, this view
                    Message 9 of 21 , Dec 7, 2005
                      At 03:57 PM 12/6/2005, Lisbeth S. Fried wrote:
                      >I would have thought that any God that was not manifest in history was
                      >totally pointless.
                      >
                      >Liz Fried

                      Of course. This is the perspective of the writers of the Tanakh, which
                      considers "history" to be what happened in the past. In the strong sense,
                      this view was that history = what God did in the past, especially with
                      regard to the People of the Covenant. That is, History = a summary of the
                      Acts of God. Nothing else was considered very important.

                      West is writing of "history" in a different sense, where history is a
                      summary of the data from the past *after* it has been filtered by
                      modernists, which removes every fingerprint of God in the process.

                      Bob


                      Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
                      University of Hawaii
                      Honolulu, HI

                      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                    • John C. Poirier
                      ... Yes, I agree. Lest you misunderstand my point, I was lodging a complaint about how classical theism has screwed things up for modern theology, and
                      Message 10 of 21 , Dec 7, 2005
                        Liz Fried wrote:

                        > I would have thought that any God that was not manifest in history was
                        > totally pointless.

                        Yes, I agree. Lest you misunderstand my point, I was lodging a complaint
                        about how classical theism has screwed things up for modern theology, and
                        pointing out that the biblical view is of a God "manifest in history" (as
                        you put it)--even to the point of experiencing time! Twentieth-century
                        Anglo-American Christian theology doesn't seem to have a clue about any of
                        this.

                        I could go on, but this is not a theology list.


                        John C. Poirier
                      • Gordon Raynal
                        ... Bob, This sort of post is veering into theology, but a couple things need noting: 1. First (and regarding a brief theological comment) save for those who
                        Message 11 of 21 , Dec 7, 2005
                          On Dec 7, 2005, at 3:49 AM, Bob Schacht wrote:

                          > At 03:57 PM 12/6/2005, Lisbeth S. Fried wrote:
                          >> I would have thought that any God that was not manifest in history was
                          >> totally pointless.
                          >>
                          >> Liz Fried
                          >
                          > Of course. This is the perspective of the writers of the Tanakh, which
                          > considers "history" to be what happened in the past. In the strong
                          > sense,
                          > this view was that history = what God did in the past, especially with
                          > regard to the People of the Covenant. That is, History = a summary of
                          > the
                          > Acts of God. Nothing else was considered very important.
                          >
                          > West is writing of "history" in a different sense, where history is a
                          > summary of the data from the past *after* it has been filtered by
                          > modernists, which removes every fingerprint of God in the process.

                          Bob,

                          This sort of post is veering into theology, but a couple things need
                          noting:
                          1. First (and regarding a brief theological comment) save for those
                          who hold to plenary inspiration and complete literalism, I know of no
                          theologians Christian or Jewish since the Enlightenment who would
                          accept such a blanket statement as regarding the whole of TANAKH.
                          Actually such a view that you are stating (I don't know if you truly
                          hold to it?) is a very modern view that arose out of the
                          Fundamentalist/ Modernist debates that began in the late 19th century.
                          And, although I am not going to discuss it here as this is a historical
                          list, the phrase "Acts of God" is, to say the very least, a very
                          complicated phrase that needs careful parsing and not simply a phrase
                          that helps one distinguish actual occurrences in space/ time and
                          fictional/ mythic communications which aim to talk about the meaning of
                          the "events," but do so in entirely through literary imagination.
                          2. One major reason for this (that does have to do with this list) is
                          that the actual literature of the TANAKH is inclusive of many genres of
                          writing (<g> not to mention the book of Esther that doesn't even
                          mention "God:)!:). To aver that the ancients, in general, and the
                          Hebrew writers, in particular, didn't understand such as genre and such
                          literary devices such as metaphor, irony, hyperbole, etc. is to not pay
                          heed to the literature itself. Understanding such is absolutely vital
                          to making sense of the literature we have. Whatever "events" one is
                          wanting to hold onto as "factual occurrences," even with those a
                          careful understanding of the communications about them requires a very
                          careful literary and historical analysis for our access to them is
                          through literature.
                          3. Finally, I've said it before and I'll say it again: Fictional story
                          telling has been and often is one of the most potent forms of
                          theological communication.

                          Gordon Raynal
                          Inman, SC
                        • John C. Poirier
                          ... Gordon, I know Bob can fend for himself, but I think you have misunderstood what he said. He said that the writers of the Tanakh . . . consider[]
                          Message 12 of 21 , Dec 7, 2005
                            Gordon Raynal wrote:

                            > This sort of post is veering into theology, but a couple things need
                            > noting:
                            > 1. First (and regarding a brief theological comment) save for those
                            > who hold to plenary inspiration and complete literalism, I know of no
                            > theologians Christian or Jewish since the Enlightenment who would
                            > accept such a blanket statement as regarding the whole of TANAKH.
                            > Actually such a view that you are stating (I don't know if you truly
                            > hold to it?) is a very modern view that arose out of the
                            > Fundamentalist/ Modernist debates that began in the late 19th century.
                            > And, although I am not going to discuss it here as this is a historical
                            > list, the phrase "Acts of God" is, to say the very least, a very
                            > complicated phrase that needs careful parsing and not simply a phrase
                            > that helps one distinguish actual occurrences in space/ time and
                            > fictional/ mythic communications which aim to talk about the meaning of
                            > the "events," but do so in entirely through literary imagination.
                            > 2. One major reason for this (that does have to do with this list) is
                            > that the actual literature of the TANAKH is inclusive of many genres of
                            > writing (<g> not to mention the book of Esther that doesn't even
                            > mention "God:)!:). To aver that the ancients, in general, and the
                            > Hebrew writers, in particular, didn't understand such as genre and such
                            > literary devices such as metaphor, irony, hyperbole, etc. is to not pay
                            > heed to the literature itself. Understanding such is absolutely vital
                            > to making sense of the literature we have. Whatever "events" one is
                            > wanting to hold onto as "factual occurrences," even with those a
                            > careful understanding of the communications about them requires a very
                            > careful literary and historical analysis for our access to them is
                            > through literature.
                            > 3. Finally, I've said it before and I'll say it again: Fictional story
                            > telling has been and often is one of the most potent forms of
                            > theological communication.

                            Gordon,

                            I know Bob can fend for himself, but I think you have misunderstood what he
                            said. He said that "the writers of the Tanakh . . . consider[] 'history' to
                            be what happened in the past". He did not say that the whole Hebrew Bible
                            is historiography. I don't see how anything that Bob said emerges from the
                            "Fundamentalist/ Modernist debate", and I don't see how any of it dispenses
                            with the importance of understanding the literary aspects of the Hebrew
                            Bible. If the earliest readers of (say) Jonah understood that it was just a
                            parable, that would not detract from what they thought "history" was, or of
                            how God related to history.


                            John C. Poirier
                          • Ernest Pennells
                            [Bob Schacht] ... We might add that MYTH is more like MYTHtery than MYTHtake. Regards, Ernie Pennells Samaa el Maadi Tower No 2B Level 12 Apartment 4 28
                            Message 13 of 21 , Dec 7, 2005
                              [Bob Schacht]
                              >History is whatever people have decided to remember and record<

                              We might add that MYTH is more like MYTHtery than MYTHtake.

                              Regards,

                              Ernie Pennells
                              Samaa el Maadi Tower No 2B
                              Level 12 Apartment 4
                              28 Corniche el Nil
                              Cairo, Egypt
                              Tel: (20-2)526 6383 Mobile 0121001490
                              http://www.trafford.com/4dcgi/robots/03-1982.html
                            • Bob Schacht
                              ... Hey, I like it! Bob [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                              Message 14 of 21 , Dec 7, 2005
                                At 04:09 AM 12/7/2005, Ernest Pennells wrote:
                                >[Bob Schacht]
                                > >History is whatever people have decided to remember and record<
                                >
                                >We might add that MYTH is more like MYTHtery than MYTHtake.

                                Hey, I like it!
                                <g>
                                Bob


                                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                              • Richard Bartholomew
                                Radio National from Australia has a documentary on the Dead Sea Scrolls, focusing on Robert Eisenman - downloadable as an mp3 for the next few weeks:
                                Message 15 of 21 , Dec 8, 2005
                                  Radio National from Australia has a documentary on the
                                  Dead Sea Scrolls, focusing on Robert Eisenman -
                                  downloadable as an mp3 for the next few weeks:

                                  http://www.abc.net.au/rn/relig/spirit/stories/s1521682.htm

                                  Richard Bartholomew
                                  (Osaka University)



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