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Re: [XTalk] myth vs. history

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  • 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 1 of 21 , Dec 6, 2005
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      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
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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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    • 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 2 of 21 , Dec 6, 2005
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        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 3 of 21 , Dec 6, 2005
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          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 4 of 21 , Dec 6, 2005
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            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 5 of 21 , Dec 6, 2005
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              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 6 of 21 , Dec 6, 2005
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                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 7 of 21 , Dec 7, 2005
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                  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 8 of 21 , Dec 7, 2005
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                    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 9 of 21 , Dec 7, 2005
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                      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 10 of 21 , Dec 7, 2005
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                        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 11 of 21 , Dec 7, 2005
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                          [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 12 of 21 , Dec 7, 2005
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                            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 13 of 21 , Dec 8, 2005
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                              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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