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Re: Ted's reply Re: [XTalk] Methodological Presupposition re Gospel Accounts

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  • Gordon Raynal
    ... Bob, Ted and all, I have said it before, but with the language of cheats and liars being brought up I want to say it again: Why, oh why, oh why does
    Message 1 of 30 , Jul 11, 2006
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      On Jul 11, 2006, at 1:52 AM, Bob Schacht wrote:

      > At 11:55 AM 7/10/2006, Theodore Weeden wrote:
      >
      >> Bob Schacht wrote on July 10, 2006
      >>
      >> [Ted]
      >> I do *not* presume that the Gospel writers were "liars and cheats." I
      >> consider them to be honorable and honest writers who sought to expound
      >> their faith in Jesus as the Christ and Son of God to win others to the
      >> faith. . . .I think
      >> the promulgators of the Jesus oral tradition created many accounts
      >> about
      >> Jesus because they believed that they were true to the Jesus they had
      >> faith
      >> in. I, also, hold that those who textualized the oral tradition
      >> contributed legendary accounts about Jesus guided by the same faith
      >> methodology.
      >
      > But your methodological presumption is exactly the same as if they
      > were all
      > cheats and liars, isn't it?
      > So what is the difference, really? Your methodology is the same, so
      > far as
      > I can see.
      >
      Bob, Ted and all,

      I have said it before, but with the language of "cheats and liars"
      being brought up I want to say it again: Why, oh why, oh why does
      anyone use such language when one is talking about one of the most
      incredible art forms ancient and modern. Aesop was not a cheat and
      liar to have told stories of talking animals. Homer was not a cheat
      and a liar in telling his great stories of "the Iliad" and "the
      Odyssey." The producers of Genesis 1 and 2 were not "cheats and liars"
      telling such as the wonderful story of an animated lump of clay naming
      all the other animated lumps of clay and then being put to sleep and
      finally getting a partner from one of his ribs. And Jesus was not a
      cheat and a liar when he told such as Good Sam and the Prodigal.
      ***Obvious Point*** the oral and literary creativity of the genre of
      fiction is a splendid art. At its greatest it is one the wondrous tool
      of precisely talking about truth and truths (ordinary and "Divine").
      And the affirmation of Mark belonging to this genre is no besmirchment
      of Mark and in my view, quite the opposite, it is an honest literary
      and historical appraisal that is indeed quite wondrous.

      Second point: Narrative realism is the stuff of most all (except
      highly surreal ) fiction. And such narrative realism provides **no**
      clue that one is dealing with historical reporting. Further,
      repetition of earlier narrative fictions and emendation of those
      fictions gives **no** clue that one is dealing with historical
      reporting (so that Matthew, Luke and John repeat and emend such as
      Jesus walking on water doesn't add anything to the case as to whether
      Jesus ever did such a thing).

      Finally, identifying, making a judgment about and then affirming those
      judgments and discussing them is of the utmost importance. First, to
      identify, judge and affirm that such as the story of Jonah and the
      Parable of the Prodigal Son are works of fiction aids in understanding
      the very nature and message of the stories and what they are trying to
      communicate. (Jonah wasn't a story written as a historical account of
      a man surviving injestion and later vomiting by a very large fish! It
      was a story written about matters of faith... listening to God,
      following God's way, upholding God's mercy, etc.) And then second is
      the matter of veracity. If someone comes and tells one that after
      reading the story of the Fox and the Grapes he/ she has ancient
      evidence that foxes used to talk, then that person is telling a lie.
      And so in like fashion regarding affirming that Torah really reports
      Moses seeing the rear view of God or Jesus' friends wanting to enter
      into tent making business for apparitions of the long dead Moses and
      Elijah. These are **wondrous** examples of creative theological/
      ethical imagination. What they call for is not affirming historicity,
      but rather issues of where one's trust is, where one's hope lies and
      how one is ethically directed to live and act.

      And so to end... the ancients knew how to write fiction and use
      metaphorical language and knew when they were doing it. To understand
      their artistry is what their artistry first calls for. Sure it would
      be nice to know a bunch more facts of history. But if someone found
      Jesus' day planner complete with photos and videos of where he was on
      any or every day, that would a.) take nothing away from the artistry of
      the works we have, b.) not make one say... "yikes, they were cheats and
      liars," and c.) not necessarily add anything to the deepest and
      broadest understanding of these fine works of human creative
      imagination.

      Gordon Raynal
      Inman, SC
    • Avbcl111@aol.com
      Gordon, A couple of things. You said, And the affirmation of Mark belonging to this genre is no besmirchment of Mark and in my view, quite the opposite, it is
      Message 2 of 30 , Jul 11, 2006
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        Gordon,

        A couple of things. You said,

        "And the affirmation of Mark belonging to this genre is no besmirchment
        of Mark and in my view, quite the opposite, it is an honest literary
        and historical appraisal that is indeed quite wondrous."

        To say that Mark or the other gospels belongs to the genre of fiction is
        simply, in my mind, ridiculous. No one would call Plutarch's biographies
        "fiction." Of course he had his own biases and presuppositions, but to say they fall
        in the same category of the Odyssey is simply absurd. Mark is not like
        Genesis 1 and 2 nor is it like those other examples you presented. It is clear
        that it is a biography. What kind of a biography it is is the debate. It seems
        to me that it is a historical biography based on the style and the Jewish
        worldview of that day.

        And you said,

        "And so in like fashion regarding affirming that Torah really reports
        Moses seeing the rear view of God or Jesus' friends wanting to enter
        into tent making business for apparitions of the long dead Moses and
        Elijah. These are **wondrous** examples of creative theological/
        ethical imagination. "

        What's your evidence or criteria for judging that the transfiguration is a
        creative theological/ethical imagination? The statement above seems not to be a
        historical judgment but a theological/philosophical one. If we assume that
        the gospels are like folktales, only then can we say what you say. But I see
        reasons contrary to that theory and no good reason to believe it.

        And exactly how do you judge a certain event an "imagination"? Giving
        examples of folktales, myths, etc. is not sufficient to say that this event in the
        gospels or document X is also imaginative. One must demonstrate that these
        gospels *are* like those and I don't see a good reason for that. Also, is a
        lack of imagination a criteria for historicity? I mean, Ted argues that there
        are "gaps" in the betrayal events. Does this mean that Mark was not creative or
        imaginative enough? If so, does this mean that those events are historical?
        Or is it a lose-lose situation, that Mark is creative enough for writing
        miracle stories but not creative enough to fill in the gaps and therefore we
        should have a suspicion that his gospel is not historical?

        Best Wishes,
        Apolonio Latar
        Rutgers Student



        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Brian Trafford
        ... historicity but ... Hello Ted Rather than get into a detailed response to your post, I would like to examine your working hypthosis a bit more closely.
        Message 3 of 30 , Jul 11, 2006
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          --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, "Theodore Weeden" <Tweeden@...>
          wrote:
          >
          > Listers,
          >
          > As further support for my position that the Gospel writers are not
          > essentially concerned with the issue of faithfulness to
          historicity but
          > rather the promulgation of their own particular apologetic and
          > polemical agend... {SNIP the rest}

          Hello Ted

          Rather than get into a detailed response to your post, I would like
          to examine your working hypthosis a bit more closely. From what I
          have read from you in the past, as well as in this post, Mark was
          primarily interested in undermining the authority and teaching of
          Peter, James, the Twelve and members of Jesus' family within the
          early Church. You base this argument, I believe, largely on the
          negative portrayal of Peter and the Twelve in most of Mark's Gospel.
          My apologies for the over simplification, but I hope I have
          characterized your position more or less accurately.

          My difficulty with this hypothesis is that I do not see how it can
          be supported without begging the question on a massive scale. No
          one disputes the "slowness" of the Twelve, including Peter, and
          their seeming denseness in understanding that Jesus is the Messiah,
          the Son of God as found in the Gospels, and especially in GMark. We
          also cannot dispute the hostility of Jesus' family toward's Jesus'
          ministry. But this lack of understanding/hostility on their part is
          confined entirely to the pre-Resurrection Jesus. Mark says nothing
          at all about how they responded to that Resurrection event (outside
          of the women fleeing in terror in Mark 16:8), but we can be
          reasonably certain from the evidence that they did respond by
          spreading the "gospel" that Jesus was the Christ, the Risen Lord, as
          it were. Moreover, Mark's audience would have known this as well.

          The only other example we have of how a 1st century Jew responded to
          Jesus prior to his own experience of the Resurrection is Paul. In
          his letters Paul is quick to point out his own hostility to
          Christians, the Gospel, and to Jesus before he received his
          commmission from Jesus himself. In effect, he admits that he was at
          least as dense and uncomprehending of the truth of Jesus' role as
          Son of God as had been the Twelve, Peter, and Jesus' family as
          portrayed in GMark. In fact, he was even more hostile to the truth
          of the gospel than was Jesus' family (which merely thought him
          mad). What we have from Paul's letters is a clearly "anti-Saul" (if
          I may use such a term) theme, but far from undermining Paul's
          authority, he uses it to bolster it!

          So, my question boils down to this: why should we assume that the
          negative portrayal of Peter, et al, as found in GMark should be read
          as intended to tear down their authority in the post-Resurrection
          experience church? If anything, the theme we see from Paul and the
          rest of the Gospels is that the Resurrection experience is what
          transforms *everyone* who has it, transforming them from what they
          once were (rebellious, uncomprehending, hostile to God's Son, etc.)
          into true followers of Christ, invested with his spirit and
          authority. Does it not make sense to read GMark in this same light?

          Peace,

          Brian Trafford
          Calgary, AB, Canada
        • Mike Grondin
          ... Or it is or might be an example of using names of dead folks to lend credence to fictional events. (IOW, Bauckham s argument is of the weakest sort.) ...
          Message 4 of 30 , Jul 11, 2006
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            --- Apolonio Latar wrote:
            > I agree with Bauckham that the reason why names,
            > like Peter, were mentioned is that this is or might
            > be an example of using eyewitness testimony as evidence.

            Or it is or might be an example of using names of
            dead folks to lend credence to fictional events.
            (IOW, Bauckham's argument is of the weakest sort.)

            > ... people knew that eyewitnesses were the best type
            > of evidence ...

            They could hardly "know" something which is false.
            Eyewitness testimony is one of the worst types of
            evidence, especially if the purported eyewitnesses
            are taken on faith and never seriously questioned
            as to the veracity of their stories - which seems to
            have been pretty much what happened in early Christianity.

            > One great example is Paul, "Am I not an apostle?
            > Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?" Here, he is arguing
            > that he has the authority to teach and is reliable
            > because he *is* an eyewitness.

            This *is* a great example, because Paul was in fact
            *not* an eyewitness. What he saw (assuming he saw
            something) was an apparition. Where they are not
            invented, other post-resurrection stories appear
            to be of the same order.

            > Now, that they wanted to be faithful to historical
            > events is for me intuitive. If we take 1 Cor. 15:
            >
            > "For I handed on to you as of first importance what
            > I also received: that Christ died for our sins in
            > accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried;
            > that he was raised on the third day in accordance
            > with the scriptures; that he appeared to Kephas,
            > then to the Twelve."

            "Faithful to historical events"? Yet in NO gospel
            does Jesus appear first to Kephas - or separately
            to him at any time (except in dreams?) Indeed, for
            an event with such significance, there is an
            amazing lack of detail and agreement about Jesus'
            supposed post-resurrection life. It strikes more
            as a spate of sightings, dreams, and hallucinations,
            combined with theological creativity than anything else.

            In my view, both the gospels and the "traditions"
            are theological art - containing a few biographical
            details, but so obscured with fictional creativity
            as to make those details quite difficult to uncover.

            Mike Grondin
            Mt. Clemens, MI
          • Bob Schacht
            ... Mike, If Eyewitness testimony is one of the worst types of evidence, what kind of evidence is better? It seems to me that *all* evidence is, in essence,
            Message 5 of 30 , Jul 11, 2006
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              At 08:44 AM 7/11/2006, Mike Grondin wrote, in part:

              >. . .They could hardly "know" something which is false.
              >Eyewitness testimony is one of the worst types of
              >evidence, especially if the purported eyewitnesses
              >are taken on faith and never seriously questioned
              >as to the veracity of their stories - which seems to
              >have been pretty much what happened in early Christianity. . .

              Mike,
              If "Eyewitness testimony is one of the worst types of evidence,"
              what kind of evidence is better? It seems to me that *all* evidence is, in
              essence, either eyewitness (in effect), or second hand, depending on
              someone else's eyewitness. But maybe I'm being forgetful today.

              Your "especially" clause is a straw man, because even in Hebrew Tanakh
              tradition, one needed the converging testimony of 3 eyewitnesses to make a
              case, and anything less was considered unreliable.

              As for "serious questioning," I think that once again you are resorting to
              hyperbole, especially regarding "never," which certainly must be a bit of
              rhetorical excess. First of all, there were the heretics, who "seriously
              questioned" various matters, and then there would have been no need of
              Christian "apologists" if there had been no critics who were "seriously
              questioning" it.

              Bob Schacht
              University of Hawaii
            • Gordon Raynal
              Hi Apolonio, ... If you accept the genre of biography as being most apropos, then your point stands. Our fundamental disagreement is precisely over genre.
              Message 6 of 30 , Jul 11, 2006
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                Hi Apolonio,
                On Jul 11, 2006, at 2:02 PM, Avbcl111@... wrote:

                > Gordon,
                >
                > A couple of things. You said,
                >
                > "And the affirmation of Mark belonging to this genre is no besmirchment
                > of Mark and in my view, quite the opposite, it is an honest literary
                > and historical appraisal that is indeed quite wondrous."
                >
                > To say that Mark or the other gospels belongs to the genre of fiction
                > is
                > simply, in my mind, ridiculous.
                > No one would call Plutarch's biographies
                > "fiction." Of course he had his own biases and presuppositions, but to
                > say they fall
                > in the same category of the Odyssey is simply absurd. Mark is not like
                > Genesis 1 and 2 nor is it like those other examples you presented. It
                > is clear
                > that it is a biography. What kind of a biography it is is the debate.
                > It seems
                > to me that it is a historical biography based on the style and the
                > Jewish
                > worldview of that day.

                If you accept the genre of "biography" as being most apropos, then your
                point stands. Our fundamental disagreement is precisely over genre.
                For fuller story parallels from TANAK, take any of the great heros of
                Israel that you wish. I think they are fundamentally fictive,
                legendary works in service of ***the fundamental type of literature***
                the Scriptures are and that is that they are theological/ ethical
                works.
                >
                >
                > And you said,
                >
                > "And so in like fashion regarding affirming that Torah really reports
                > Moses seeing the rear view of God or Jesus' friends wanting to enter
                > into tent making business for apparitions of the long dead Moses and
                > Elijah. These are **wondrous** examples of creative theological/
                > ethical imagination. "
                >
                > What's your evidence or criteria for judging that the transfiguration
                > is a
                > creative theological/ethical imagination? The statement above seems
                > not to be a
                > historical judgment but a theological/philosophical one. If we assume
                > that
                > the gospels are like folktales, only then can we say what you say.
                > But I see
                > reasons contrary to that theory and no good reason to believe it.

                What reasons?
                >
                >
                > And exactly how do you judge a certain event an "imagination"? Giving
                > examples of folktales, myths, etc. is not sufficient to say that this
                > event in the
                > gospels or document X is also imaginative. One must demonstrate that
                > these
                > gospels *are* like those and I don't see a good reason for that. Also,
                > is a
                > lack of imagination a criteria for historicity? I mean, Ted argues
                > that there
                > are "gaps" in the betrayal events. Does this mean that Mark was not
                > creative or
                > imaginative enough? If so, does this mean that those events are
                > historical?
                > Or is it a lose-lose situation, that Mark is creative enough for
                > writing
                > miracle stories but not creative enough to fill in the gaps and
                > therefore we
                > should have a suspicion that his gospel is not historical?

                I would suggest you read a work like Thomas Thompson's "The Mythic
                Past" for how he nicely deals with the whole issue of the creative
                imagination that went into creating the stories and great story of the
                TANAK. Thomas has at times made a note or two on the list and perhaps
                he will join us again. But to your first question... and just starting
                with the beginning of Mark where we're told this is "Good News" about
                Jesus the Messiah the Son of God and proceed on quickly to stories of
                40 days in the wilderness and being in the company of wild beast while
                ministered to by angels and then quickly proceeding on to town to soon
                have a fine theological conversation with demons... well, you know,
                when I read a story like that "biography" nowhere crosses my mind as
                the appropriate genre identification! Per Ted's basic point, I
                entirely agree than the burden is upon the one who wants to start with
                the claim of historicity/ biography.

                Gordon Raynal
                Inman, SC
              • Mike Grondin
                ... Bob, I hope you realize that what I meant to convey is that eyewitness _claims_ are quite a bit more unreliable than folks generally realize. There is the
                Message 7 of 30 , Jul 11, 2006
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                  --- Bob Schacht wrote:
                  > Mike,
                  > If "Eyewitness testimony is one of the worst types
                  > of evidence," what kind of evidence is better? It
                  > seems to me that *all* evidence is, in essence,
                  > either eyewitness (in effect), or second hand,
                  > depending on someone else's eyewitness.

                  Bob,
                  I hope you realize that what I meant to convey is that
                  eyewitness _claims_ are quite a bit more unreliable
                  than folks generally realize. There is the possibility
                  of fabrication, for one, then of misinterpretation or
                  misrecollection of what one thinks one has observed,
                  mass hysteria, etc. The following cases come to mind:

                  1. A child informs us that he has seen a stick bend
                  when immersed in water, then straighten again when
                  withdrawn.

                  2. Hundreds of Portugese peasants testify that the
                  sun stood still (or expanded, I forget which) in
                  the sky over Fatima one fine day.

                  3. Dozens of personal accounts of alien abductions
                  are now on record. Grainy photos of UFO's and the
                  Loch Ness monster are also on file.

                  Scientific evidence (DNA testing, e.g.) and sound
                  reasoning from natural laws cannot be overridden
                  by eyewitness claims which contradict them. Rather,
                  the eyewitness claims need adjusting or correcting.
                  Call this 'minimalism' if you like. A greater danger,
                  to my way of thinking, is the "maximalism" of ordinary
                  folks who place more credence in X-Files type stories
                  than in sound scientific explanations that show those
                  stories to be impossible. Sorry to say, most of us
                  seem to prefer a good story with elements of mystery
                  in it, to any factual, humdrum explanation.

                  > Your "especially" clause is a straw man, because
                  > even in Hebrew Tanakh tradition, one needed the
                  > converging testimony of 3 eyewitnesses to make a
                  > case, and anything less was considered unreliable.

                  Oh come now, how is this relevant? Do you suppose
                  that two other people who travelled with Saul to
                  Damascus also "saw" the resurrected Jesus? And yet
                  the Jerusalem hierarchy apparently accepted his
                  "sighting". There's no evidence at all that early
                  Christians employed a "3 eyewitnesses" rule.

                  Mike Grondin
                  Mt. Clemens, MI
                • Avbcl111@aol.com
                  In a message dated 7/12/2006 12:26:39 A.M. Eastern Standard Time, mwgrondin@comcast.net writes: There is the possibility of fabrication, for one, then of
                  Message 8 of 30 , Jul 11, 2006
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                    In a message dated 7/12/2006 12:26:39 A.M. Eastern Standard Time,
                    mwgrondin@... writes:

                    There is the possibility
                    of fabrication, for one, then of misinterpretation or
                    misrecollection of what one thinks one has observed,
                    mass hysteria, etc. The following cases come to mind:



                    Hey Mike,

                    I'll address your response to me hopefully tomorrow. But I'll dispute your
                    social epistemology here. One example is Fatima. What reason is there to doubt
                    it unless you already have a presupposition that miracles cannot happen? And
                    if eyewitness testimonies are more unreliable, then would you dispute ever
                    event that is reported when you read a newspaper or even watch the news? By
                    your criteria, it seems that you should. We also finally see that your
                    assumption is that of a naturalistic one: "Scientific evidence (DNA testing, e.g.) and
                    sound reasoning from natural laws cannot be overridden by eyewitness claims
                    which contradict them." It seems to me that the most intuitive way of going
                    about testimony is trusting them unless there is a defeater. But to say that
                    we must "adjust" testimonies which speaks of the supernatural because of
                    natural laws and scientific evidence is a philosophical error. So we can see,
                    then, that your approach to the new testament is not first and foremost a
                    historical one, but a natural philosophical one. True, we all have our philosophies
                    when it comes to interpreting historical texts, but I don't see how a
                    naturalistic presupposition is justified.

                    Best Withes,
                    Apolonio Latar
                    Rutgers Student




                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • Theodore Weeden
                    ... I may have overstated my position (or a modification may be in order) in my last sentence. See below. ... Agreed ... Agreed. ... Agreed. Could you send
                    Message 9 of 30 , Jul 12, 2006
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                      James Crossley wrote on Monday, July 10, 2006:

                      > Theodore Weeden wrote:
                      >>(1) Given the purpose and nature of oral tradition in oral
                      >>societies ---which the earliest Christian communities were--- and (2)
                      >>given
                      >>the increasingly common practice of historiography in the first-century
                      >>Mediterranean world, and (3) given the rhetorical character of the
                      >>Gospels,
                      >>in the hermeneutical pursuit of historicity in the Gospel narratives, the
                      >>historical veracity of any given Gospel account must be plausibly, if not
                      >>persuasively, demonstrated ---insofar as anything
                      >>historical can be demonstrated--- rather than at the outset privileging or
                      >>premising its historical authenticity, or even its core as historically
                      >>authentic. Thus, the onus of persuasion is upon those who would argue for
                      >>the historicity of any Gospel account.
                      >
                      > I'm not sure I'd be as sceptical as the abstract given, though in the
                      > details I think I agree to a great extent.<

                      I may have overstated my position (or a modification may be in order) in
                      my last sentence. See below.

                      > Rhetoric, narrative art, and influence of the contemporary
                      > socio-historical location are inevitable in works of even the most
                      > accurate historian ancient or modern. Narrative and rhetoric are simply
                      > unavoidable and does not have much of a bearing on deciding historicity.
                      > Whatever method of presenting Jesus' life was going to be chosen it was
                      > always going to be done in some artificial form or other. That goes for
                      > gospel writers and modern lives of Jesus. Whether any of the details are
                      > accurate or not has to be decided on other grounds.<

                      Agreed

                      > You are of course right that ancient communities preserved details for
                      > reasons of social identity rather than accuracy. But as you imply this
                      > does not mean all details are useless in historical reconstruction as
                      > certain facts may be deemed useful. So we are back to analysing to see how
                      > far we can get and, once again, from the outset we simply cannot assume a
                      > given detail is inaccurate or accurate.<

                      Agreed.

                      > However, it is absolutely important to stress that people in the ancient
                      > world rewrote and invented history. To use an extreme example, few would
                      > believe that the miraculous deeds of a rabbis of an emperor really
                      > happened and most would be happy to accept that such acts were creations.
                      > Moreover, haggadah was no doubt a popular form of writing and, as Roger
                      > Aus has pointed out many times, this influenced gospel tradition.
                      > Statistically speaking some of the gospel accounts, you would think, have
                      > to be inventions (this is a serious criticism of Wright's two massive
                      > books on Jesus). Anyone who believes otherwise would at least have to
                      > admit that the gospels would be spectacularly unique in this respect.In
                      > fact I would go as far as saying that it is an anachronism to think the
                      > works of the gospel writers contained no invention. I would therefore
                      > agree that just because Judas was held to have betrayed Jesus in early
                      > Christian tradition does not mean it is *necessarily* historically
                      > accurate. We know people invented stories so, yes, they *could* have
                      > invented this one. <

                      Agreed. Could you send me the biblio info on Roger Aus, perhaps off-list?
                      On Wright, I think Wright's crediting the evangelists too easily with
                      historical interests is a serious flaw in his fine work. He is one who I
                      have in mind, in my reply to Bob Schacht, as a New Testament scholar
                      who I wonder if his commitment to the faith does not cause him to
                      privilege unduly the historicity of Gospel accounts. I will speak more
                      to this issue in a forthcoming post to Bob.

                      > As for Christian communities being oral communities this is no doubt true
                      > to an extent. It is also true that memory plays all sorts of tricks on
                      > poor human beings making them manipulate, invent and so on. Crossan has a
                      > very useful secion on this in *The Birth of Christianity*. But then it is
                      > also known that oral transmission can retain factual material. It is also
                      > the case that not all Christian communities were entirely oral. Not only
                      > were gospels written down (suggesting that at least someone was interested
                      > in writing - and it only takes one or two...) but so also Paul.<

                      Agreed. It is understandable why Paul used textuality to correspond with
                      his far flung little communities, but the "sudden" shift from orality to
                      textuality with regard to the first Gospel, Mark (I am not sure about Q) may
                      well have been necessitated for polemical reasons, as I proposed in my
                      SBL Synoptic Group response to Richard Bauckham (see my post of
                      7/10, "Re: Methodological Presupposition . . . "). I think Mark's use of
                      textuality may well have been a "power play" against his "oralist" opponents
                      and their purported "disciple" authorities.

                      > The idea sometimes made that wax tablets could have been used to transmit
                      > material is at least worth entertaining. Not that this would prove too
                      > much either way, but at least it might further mean some basis in written
                      > eye witness accounts cannot be entirely ruled out (and let's not forget
                      > that eye witnesses are far from reliable!).<

                      I would like to know about this "wax tablets" theory.

                      > I suppose what I am trying to drag out of myself is the idea that issue
                      > of historicity is pretty chaotic and has to be assessed on all those other
                      > grounds that historicity is usually assessed. It seems to me that if you
                      > want to find out whether Judas betrayed Jesus, and as it is not
                      > suspiciously supernatural, the epic debate over details is probably the
                      > only route!<

                      And that is the route I have taken, as I have articulated in my responses to
                      Rikk Watts and his challenge to my contention that Mark created the betrayal
                      tradition and the persona of Judas.

                      > Didn't Meier or Sanders say that the onus of proof lies on the one who
                      > wants to prove anything? Whoever said it, that is what I'm driving at I
                      > suppose and consequently it is when such discussion go as far as saying
                      > 'the onus of persuasion is upon those who would argue for the historicity
                      > of any Gospel account' that I would probably have to part ways, or at
                      > least straddle both ways if that's not too much of an unpleasant and
                      > slightly inaccurate image.<

                      I spoke above of the need to restate or modify my position here. I am not
                      wanting to suggest that there may not be kernels of historicity which can be
                      derived from the Gospel accounts. Vansina makes the point, as I presented
                      in initiating this thread, that oral societies do preserve historical
                      data in their traditions when that data helps support the social identity of
                      a oral community. But, as Vansina has observed, I have stated and you
                      here, an oral community is just as willing to invent material to support its
                      social identity in any given time, particularly when its homeostasis is
                      challenged. And when the historical material no longer serves its purpose
                      it can just as easily excise it through preventive censorship, as Kelber,
                      in particular, emphasizes in _Oral and Written Gospel_. The same applies
                      to the communities out of which the textuality of the Gospel traditions
                      emerged. Consequently, I think I should modify my stance a bit. Thus:
                      since the Gospels, with the exception of Luke, give no indication that they
                      are written in the Herodotean or Thucydidean historiographic genre, and
                      since even that genre in the first century CE could be seriously corrupted
                      with falsification and invention (so Seneca, Lucian) --- here I would
                      include Luke, despite his passing off of his Gospel and Acts as "an orderly
                      account" of the history of Jesus and the emerging Christian movement via
                      testimony of eye-witnesses through his prefaces (see Loveday Alexander, to
                      whom I referred in my initial post on this thread)--- whether or *not* one
                      can excavate historical data or even historical residue from any given
                      Gospel account must be plausibly, if not persuasively demonstrated, through
                      the rigorous application of the historical-critical methodology, without
                      initial prejudice *for or against* the historicity of any given Gospel
                      account (perhaps, this states in another way your choice of straddling
                      "both ways.").

                      Thus, for example, with respect to Judas' betrayal, in my initial engagement
                      with the betrayal tradition, I concluded with others that the betrayal
                      tradition was likely historical. It was only when I became alerted by some
                      scholars to the parallels between Judas and his betrayal and David's
                      Ahithophel and his plot against David that I entertained the idea that Mark
                      could well have created the betrayal tradition by modeling it after the
                      betrayal tradition of the Davidic saga. Subsequent historical-critical
                      analysis has led me to the conclusion that Mark did, in fact, create the
                      Judas' betrayal.

                      Thanks for your engagement with me on this important methodological issue.

                      Best regards,

                      Ted
                    • Theodore Weeden
                      ... I do not have a copy. ... It is not impossible that such stories could have had their origin in the experiences of such people. But since stories are
                      Message 10 of 30 , Jul 12, 2006
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                        Apolonia Latar wrote on Monday, July 10:

                        > Dr. Weeden,

                        > Do you by any chance have a copy of Bauckham's new book on the historicity
                        > of the Gospels? He argues that the Gospels are accounts of eyewitness
                        > testimony.

                        I do not have a copy.

                        > One example is how there are stories in the gospels where it mentions
                        > anonymous people as well as specific people (ex. Jairus). The originators
                        > of those
                        > stories or traditions might have come from those names mentioned.

                        It is not impossible that such stories could have had their origin in the
                        experiences of such people. But since stories are easily invented by the
                        promulgators of the Jesus oral tradition (cf. Vansina) and the Gospel
                        writers, the issue as to whether any of them is historical or contain a
                        residue of historicity must be assessed through the rigorous application of
                        the historical-critical and literary-critical methodologies. Just because
                        stories contain specific names of people does not suggest that they have a
                        basis in history. It is not difficult to invent a name, as it is not
                        difficult to invent a story.

                        > I did have trouble with this argument:

                        > "Even Luke, who in his Gospel passes himself off as a reliable historian
                        > in
                        > his preface, fabricates stories and alters the order of events (as
                        > Quintilian encourages: see above) in his Markan source to fit his own
                        > theological/theological/<WBR>christological agenda (e.g., among many, J
                        > imprisonment prior to Jesus' baptism [3:19-22], Pilate sending Jesus to
                        > Herod to get his take on Jesus' innocence [23:6-12], the risen Jesus
                        > appearing corporeally and eating to prove it [24:36-42]). "
                        >
                        > It may be that Luke alters the order of events, but to say he fabricated
                        > stories and give an example such as Christ's physical appearance is
                        > circular.
                        > True, Luke's may be the only source where we can find that story but I
                        > don't see
                        > why that means he fabricated it at all. The argument seems to be: Luke
                        > fabricates stories because there are stories in Luke which are fabricated
                        > does
                        > not sound plausible since many scholars do not find these as
                        > fabrications. Tom
                        > Wright, for example, believes that the story of Jesus eating is so odd
                        > that
                        > he doesn't find it plausible that it is made up.

                        Contra Wright, it has been argued by a number of scholars (see, e.g.,
                        Charles Talbert, _Luke and the Gnostics_ 14, 31f. that the
                        story of Jesus' post-resurrection physicial epiphany was created by Luke to
                        challenge as a docetic interpretation of the resurrection. I am convinced
                        that Joseph Tyson (see his forthcoming book) is correct: namely, that our
                        canonical Luke (the final version of the Gospel) was produced in large part
                        as an anti-Marcion polemic, and that the story of Lk 24:26-43 was
                        specifically created to counter Marcion's gnostic interpretation. That
                        aside, ontologically, a physical resurrection of a dead person after three
                        days is a scientific impossibility. True, some persons pronounced
                        clinically dead, have been revived, but not after three days in the grave,
                        unless I have missed some scientifically verified marvel somewhere.

                        > What is interesting in Luke is that he spoke of how eyewitnesses handed
                        > down
                        > the stories to the communities. Of course the trick is to find out how the
                        > eyewitnesses told their stories, whether they added things in or not. But
                        > it is
                        > interesting that eyewitness testimony is something that is important when
                        > it
                        > came to passing down the gospels.

                        Eye witnesses are obviously important but eye witnesses can imagine things,
                        misunderstand, misrepresent, etc, what they experience. I think Mike
                        Grondin has stated this well in his reply to you of 7/11. Eye witnesses
                        can also be created de novo by an enterprising author.

                        > And when the gospels were passed to a
                        > community, it was not that community's responsibility to teach it. It
                        > seems that
                        > there were appointed teachers. They applied the gospels in their own lives
                        > in
                        > different ways and it seems that each community had certain people to
                        > perform certain roles. An interesting point to note here is that the
                        > gospel or the
                        > Christian message is not limited to a particular community and that
                        > community can do whatever they want with it. It was universal in that
                        > Christians
                        > tried to have the same message throughout.<

                        I have a number of problems with your position here. Where do you find
                        Christians universally proclaiming the same message, and what exactly is the
                        content of that message? If they had the same message, why does Paul get
                        so riled up against Christian teachers and apostles with a different message
                        in 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians and Phil 3, for example? And why are the
                        messages of the four Gospels so diverse? I would suggest that you read
                        Frederik Wisse's article, "The Use of Early Christian Literature as Evidence
                        for Inner Diversity and Conflict," in _Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism, and Early
                        Christianity_, ed. Charles W. Hedrick and Robert Hodgson, Jr. (1986).

                        > We see this in Paul when he tells them
                        > to hold fast to the traditions he and others have given them (2 Thess.
                        > 2:15)
                        > and we also know that the apostles themselves moved around teaching and
                        > spreading the gospels.

                        I, along with many other scholars, consider 2 Thessalonians to be a
                        pseudonymous letter, written by a Paulinist. Where is there evidence that
                        the apostles taught and spread "the gospel" (sic)? If you meant here
                        "gospel," where is there evidence that the apostles taught and spread the
                        same gospel? See again, my statement above, and particularly see Wisse.

                        > Control outside the community is something that can and
                        > did happen in the beginnings of the movement and this seems to mean that
                        > how a
                        > community applied stories to "define" its identity is not something of
                        > first
                        > importance, but whether they got the stories and doctrines right in the
                        > first
                        > place. That is why some forged people's names, that obedience or
                        > acceptance
                        > to a particular teaching or story depends on who told it. Why else would
                        > people speak of oral statements or letters coming from Paul, for instance
                        > (2
                        > Thess. 2:1-2)? Why else would we have gnostic gospels from prominent
                        > names?

                        See, again, above.

                        > Now, again, just because these traditions come from eyewitnesses that they
                        > are therefore true. Peter said that Jesus came to his house to heal his
                        > mother.
                        > Therefore it's true. That's a non-sequitor. What we're getting at here is
                        > social epistemology or how we should accept testimonies. And that takes a
                        > philosophical theory. But it is intuitive that we take people's
                        > testimonies as
                        > they are unless there is a good reason to disbelieve it.

                        I am afraid I do not understand you here or have misunderstood what you are
                        stating here. There seems to be a contradictory tension in your statement.
                        Perhaps, you could clarify. Why is it intuitive as historical critics that
                        we should take first century eye witness testimony as reliable, particularly
                        givenwhat Vansina tells us about oral societies and their inventiveness for
                        social identification and Seneca's repudiation of the eye witness
                        testimonies of many historians of his time as lies?

                        Best regards,

                        Ted Weeden
                      • Avbcl111@aol.com
                        Hey Gordon, You said, But to your first question... and just starting with the beginning of Mark where we re told this is Good News about Jesus the Messiah
                        Message 11 of 30 , Jul 12, 2006
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                          Hey Gordon,


                          You said,
                          But to your first question... and just starting
                          with the beginning of Mark where we're told this is "Good News" about
                          Jesus the Messiah the Son of God and proceed on quickly to stories of
                          40 days in the wilderness and being in the company of wild beast while
                          ministered to by angels and then quickly proceeding on to town to soon
                          have a fine theological conversation with demons... well, you know,
                          when I read a story like that "biography" nowhere crosses my mind as
                          the appropriate genre identification!

                          Probably to your intuitions, but not everybody have the same intuitions as
                          you do. In fact, if we look at Mark closely, we see that he starts with an Old
                          Testament passage and then goes on to tell a story. This resembles
                          biographies. Plutarch, for example, sometimes starts with proverbs or even fables or a
                          famous saying and then goes on to write a story. Now, only when we start with
                          a naturalistic presupposition can we say, "Wait, this sounds like those
                          myths again." But the fact that eyewitness testimony is an important concept in
                          the Christian movement shows that the genre is not at all mere myth. Finally,
                          I believe it is both the one who claims that it is historical and the one who
                          says it is mythical or fictional that has the burden.

                          Best Wishes,
                          Apolonio Latar
                          Rutgers Student


                          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                        • Mike Grondin
                          ... Sorry, I don t know what social epistemology is. ... The sun doesn t act in the way described. It may _appear_ to do funny things, based on atmospheric
                          Message 12 of 30 , Jul 12, 2006
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                            --- Apolonio Latar wrote:
                            > Hey Mike,
                            > I'll address your response to me hopefully tomorrow.
                            > But I'll dispute your social epistemology here.

                            Sorry, I don't know what social epistemology is.

                            > One example is Fatima. What reason is there to doubt
                            > it unless you already have a presupposition that
                            > miracles cannot happen?

                            The sun doesn't act in the way described. It may
                            _appear_ to do funny things, based on atmospheric
                            conditions, but that's all there was to it, as far
                            as we know from physical laws. I suspect the folks
                            had been standing too long in the sun, expecting a
                            miracle, so they "saw" one.

                            > And if eyewitness testimonies are more unreliable,
                            > then would you dispute ever event that is reported
                            > when you read a newspaper or even watch the news?
                            > By your criteria, it seems that you should.

                            Eyewitness claims are particularly suspect when the
                            claimant has a personal interest in his testimony
                            being accepted. In early Christianity, it seems to
                            have become a matter of prestige and/or power to
                            have been favored with _personal_ contact with the
                            "risen Jesus". (Notice that Paul mentions three
                            individuals as recipients of individual contact -
                            Peter, James, and himself. That's significant)
                            I should say also, however, that I have some
                            suspicion that "he appeared to X" might actually
                            have been code for X _coming to believe_ in Jesus
                            as "my Lord and my God".

                            > We also finally see that your assumption is that
                            > of a naturalistic one: "Scientific evidence (DNA
                            > testing, e.g.) and sound reasoning from natural
                            > laws cannot be overridden by eyewitness claims
                            > which contradict them."

                            Yep. (More below.)

                            > It seems to me that the most intuitive way of going
                            > about testimony is trusting them unless there is a
                            > defeater.

                            An eyewitness claim that truly contradicts valid
                            physical laws has already met its defeater.

                            > But to say that we must "adjust" testimonies which
                            > speak[] of the supernatural because of natural laws
                            > and scientific evidence is a philosophical error.

                            Oh, my. Would you care to spell out what kind of
                            philosophical error you think is involved? (Fair
                            warning: my grad degree is in philosophy.)

                            > So we can see, then, that your approach to the new
                            > testament is not first and foremost a historical one,
                            > but a natural philosophical one. True, we all have our
                            > philosophies when it comes to interpreting historical
                            > texts, but I don't see how a naturalistic presupposition
                            > is justified.

                            On the contrary, in every other area of historical
                            studies, we adopt a naturalistic presupposition. We
                            routinely disregard descriptions of miraculous events.
                            We do this even with respect to religious writings other
                            than our own - e.g., the claim that Mohammad rode a
                            flying horse to heaven, or that Joseph Smith found some
                            golden tablets which were translated to him by some
                            heavenly agent (I believe he had two "eyewitnesses",
                            BTW). But Christian miracle claims? Ah, somehow they're
                            different (Bob S. being one of the few exceptions to
                            this rule of cultural-centricity, I believe).

                            Mike Grondin
                            Mt. Clemens, MI
                          • Avbcl111@aol.com
                            Hey Mike, We re pretty much getting into philosophy here so I don t know how much relevance this has to the list. I ll respond to the eyewitness testimony
                            Message 13 of 30 , Jul 12, 2006
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                              Hey Mike,

                              We're pretty much getting into philosophy here so I don't know how much
                              relevance this has to the list. I'll respond to the eyewitness testimony subject
                              first.

                              You said,

                              "Eyewitness claims are particularly suspect when the
                              claimant has a personal interest in his testimony
                              being accepted. In early Christianity, it seems to
                              have become a matter of prestige and/or power to
                              have been favored with _personal_ contact with the
                              "risen Jesus". (Notice that Paul mentions three
                              individuals as recipients of individual contact -
                              Peter, James, and himself. That's significant)
                              I should say also, however, that I have some
                              suspicion that "he appeared to X" might actually
                              have been code for X _coming to believe_ in Jesus
                              as "my Lord and my God"."

                              The problem here is that Paul did not have personal interest. Here is a man
                              who spoke of his weaknesses and spoke of suffering and such. He was concerned
                              with the after life and not what his life on earth. That is the intuitive
                              answer we have to Paul's understanding of himself. He did, of course, tried to
                              persuade people, but I don't see that as an example of having personal
                              interest. In fact, I should say that the Christians who were willing to die for
                              their faith did not have personal interest unless we broaden the concept of
                              "personal interest" to things like salvation. But they did not try to get power.
                              That may have been done centuries later, but not in the first century. As for
                              "he appeared to X," I'm pretty sure that that is not a code for "I believe
                              Jesus is my Lord and my God." We are talking about people who were spreading
                              the message that Jesus rose again from the dead and who he has appeared to.

                              Now you said,

                              An eyewitness claim that truly contradicts valid
                              physical laws has already met its defeater....Oh, my. Would you care to
                              spell out what kind of
                              philosophical error you think is involved? (Fair
                              warning: my grad degree is in philosophy.)

                              Response:
                              Alright, if you have a degree in philosophy, then I assume that you know
                              Hume's error so I won't have to speak of it here (cf. Swinburne's Concept of
                              Miracle). Now, as for claims "contradicting valid physical laws," you as well as
                              I know that physical and natural laws are not statistical and universal.
                              Quantum Theory has pointed this out. So I don't see the problem here. We also
                              know that our understanding of physical laws change and it is not absolute. Your
                              position seems to be:

                              If X contradicts valid physical laws, then X is defeated. (P)

                              What are reasons to accept P? And is P really true? Is there not a
                              possibility that X contradicting a physical law but it is an *exception* to that rule
                              (I say possibility since if, then, is an entailment proposition)? And could
                              it not be that if X contradicts "valid physical laws," then those were not
                              physical laws in the first place? That's what happened throughout the scientific
                              movements. So definitely a scientist would not want to accept P. Our
                              understanding of physical laws and the more we study them, the more we see that they
                              are not absolute. And I don't know of any person who believes they are
                              absolute. That's the only way one can argue against miracles. And I don't see any
                              reason for accepting that.


                              On the contrary, in every other area of historical
                              studies, we adopt a naturalistic presupposition. We
                              routinely disregard descriptions of miraculous events.
                              We do this even with respect to religious writings other
                              than our own - e.g., the claim that Mohammad rode a
                              flying horse to heaven, or that Joseph Smith found some
                              golden tablets which were translated to him by some
                              heavenly agent (I believe he had two "eyewitnesses"h
                              BTW). But Christian miracle claims? Ah, somehow they're
                              different (Bob S. being one of the few exceptions to
                              this rule of cultural-centricitythis rule of

                              I don't adopt naturalistic presuppositions even when it comes to Smith or
                              Muhammad. I don't know much about them so I can't say anything about them. It
                              may be in fact that Muhammad did ride a horse to heaven. And I don't even see
                              that as a problem for a Christian. He may hold that the devil is part of that
                              and not God. This may sound laughable but it is a defense nonetheless and it
                              shows that a Christian accepting Muhammad riding a horse is not at all
                              incompatible with his faith. And I wouldn't even rule out U.F.O's. My theological
                              interpretation of it may be different, but I wouldn't rule them out. So it
                              seems that I am consistent in my approach here.


                              Best Wishes,
                              Apolonio Latar
                              Rutgers Student (majoring in philosophy)



                              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                            • Avbcl111@aol.com
                              Dr. Weeden, I believe I have implicitly answered some of your objections and statements in other posts so I will limit my response to the following (and I will
                              Message 14 of 30 , Jul 12, 2006
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                                Dr. Weeden,

                                I believe I have implicitly answered some of your objections and statements
                                in other posts so I will limit my response to the following (and I will also
                                try to look up the sources you have mentioned).

                                "I have a number of problems with your position here. Where do you find
                                Christians universally proclaiming the same message, and what exactly is the
                                content of that message? If they had the same message, why does Paul get
                                so riled up against Christian teachers and apostles with a different message
                                in 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians and Phil 3, for example? And why are the
                                messages of the four Gospels so diverse? I would suggest that you read
                                Frederik Wisse's article, "The Use of Early Christian Literature as Evidence
                                for Inner Diversity and Conflict," in _Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism, and Early
                                Christianity_Christianity_<WBR>, ed. Charles W. Hedrick and Robert Hodgs

                                Response:
                                Well, I said that Christians *tried* to have the same message throughout.
                                That is why we see a lot of "controlling" or debates in early Christianity. I
                                think the diversity factor in early Christianity was a matter of emphasis and
                                application of the events to one's culture and worldview. One example is Luke,
                                a Greek. I interpret the prodigal son as having an allusion to the Jewish
                                and Gentile people. The prodigal son referring to the Gentile and the first to
                                the Jewish. But that does not mean that he has a different message than, say,
                                Mark. Both speak of the importance of repentance and forgiveness. All the
                                gospels and Paul speak of Jesus as the messiah and all of them speak of Jesus
                                as the Son of God. All speak of them speaks of Christ fulfilling prophecies in
                                the Old Testament and all of them speak of the kingdom of God being at hand.
                                Now, one may wish to argue against me on the concept of the kingdom of God
                                here. I basically hold on to Wright's interpretation in his book Jesus and the
                                Victory of God. Plus, all believe in the significance of the death and
                                resurrection of Jesus Christ. So there is unity there. That doesn't mean that
                                there is not diversity. Even in the Catholic Church, and churches in full
                                communion with Rome, there is a great deal of diversity. But they all express the
                                same creed although they have different theologies of them. So one can be
                                united in doctrine but different theologies. Thomists can hold to absolute
                                divine simplicity and Palamites can hold to the essence/energies distinction.

                                As for Paul, if we interpret Galatians exegetically, it was more of Kephas'
                                practice that he was mad at about. Most of the things that angered Paul were
                                the practices of Christians. It's true that he had to deal with "Judaizers,"
                                and speaks of those who pervert the gospel, but I don't see that implying that
                                there are numerous groups in Christianity and that they don't have the same
                                message. And why can't one conclude that those people were just thought to be
                                wrong in their beliefs and practices? Again, analogous to the Catholic
                                Church, I don't think anyone would say that the Catholic Church does not have
                                doctrines particular to its religion. Even though we can speak of Kung,
                                Guiterrez, etc., is one to conclude that Catholics don't have the same message? Just
                                because most people don't understand transubstantiation or some are trying to
                                express the Eucharist as transignification and the such, it does not mean
                                that the Catholic Church teaches transubstantiation. Now, you might argue that
                                this is not an analogy because you believe early Christianity was not like the
                                Catholic Church. But I disagree here. If we compare the teachings of the
                                gospels and Paul, and other letters, they do have the same message with
                                different emphasis for each community they were written to.


                                You said,
                                "I, along with many other scholars, consider 2 Thessalonians to be a
                                pseudonymous letter, written by a Paulinist. Where is there evidence that
                                the apostles taught and spread "the gospel" (sic)? If you meant here
                                "gospel," where is there evidence that the apostles taught and spread the
                                same gospel? See again, my statement above, and particularly see Wisse."

                                Response:
                                As to the first question, I think that is clear in how the gospels are
                                written. Unless you are to dispute the historical Peter, James, John, Andrew,
                                etc., then I don't see how else early Christianity came about. Are you willing to
                                say that when the canonical gospels lists the apostles that they are simply
                                fictitious names? How exactly would you reconstruct early Christianity without
                                the apostles? It seems to me that since you hold a suspicion in the gospels,
                                then it seems that most of the things in the gospels are not historical and
                                we do not know much about the historical Jesus from the canonical gospels
                                (please clarify here because I don't want to misrepresent you). If we can't
                                hardly know about the historical Jesus, then how would we know the historical
                                Peter, John, James, etc? Exactly how do you reconstruct early Christianity
                                without these people?

                                So it is really intuitive that the apostles taught the gospel, that they
                                taught that Jesus was really risen and they were eyewitnesses. 1 Cor. 15 has
                                that and the gospels having these names show that it is plausible that the claim
                                that Jesus rose again were from the disciples. We also know, for example,
                                from early sources that the apostles did move around. Are you suggesting that
                                Peter never went to Rome? They did not simply stay in Jerusalem. As for
                                spreading the same gospel, well, that we have the gospels saying that Jesus rose
                                again, is the messiah, and that the kingdom of God has come and Jesus will come
                                again, I think they didn't do that bad in proclaiming the same message.

                                Best Wishes,
                                Apolonio Latar
                                Rutgers Student


                                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                              • Lee Edgar Tyler
                                ... The Fatima event and the processes of its transmission are of course heavily studied because they are so well documented. I do not understand why it would
                                Message 15 of 30 , Jul 13, 2006
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                                  Mike Grondin wrote:

                                  > --- Apolonio Latar wrote:
                                  >

                                  > snip
                                  >
                                  > > One example is Fatima. What reason is there to doubt
                                  > > it unless you already have a presupposition that
                                  > > miracles cannot happen?
                                  >
                                  > The sun doesn't act in the way described. It may
                                  > _appear_ to do funny things, based on atmospheric
                                  > conditions, but that's all there was to it, as far
                                  > as we know from physical laws. I suspect the folks
                                  > had been standing too long in the sun, expecting a
                                  > miracle, so they "saw" one.
                                  >
                                  The Fatima event and the processes of its transmission are of course
                                  heavily studied because they are so well documented. I do not understand
                                  why it would be advanced as an example of why we ought to accept
                                  eye-witness testimony, especially in the face of so many other studies
                                  that demonstrate its unreliability, because it is almost a textbook
                                  example of unreliable eye-witness testimony. It is a case in which the
                                  written testimony of the eye-witnesses:

                                  1) Contradicts the reports of their earlier oral testimony, and
                                  2) Contradicts earlier written testimony by the same witnesses.

                                  Briefly put, it is an example in which, as time progressed, the
                                  witnesses elaborated their testimony to conform to legends about the
                                  Fatima event that began circulating independently, but of which the
                                  witnesses became aware as time progressed. If one were to cherry-pick
                                  an example of how reports of a purported spiritual event change over
                                  time to conform to the expectations of the reporters audience, Fatima
                                  would be on the short list.

                                  Ed Tyler
                                • Mike Grondin
                                  ... OK, I ll accept that statement, though I had said truly contradicts to rule out exceptions (below). ... Well, if it s true, that seems to be a good
                                  Message 16 of 30 , Jul 17, 2006
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                                    --- Apolonio Latar wrote:
                                    > Your position seems to be:
                                    > If X contradicts valid physical laws, then X is defeated. (P)

                                    OK, I'll accept that statement, though I had said
                                    "truly contradicts" to rule out exceptions (below).

                                    > What are reasons to accept P? And is P really true?

                                    Well, if it's true, that seems to be a good reason
                                    to accept it. (:-)

                                    > Is there not a possibility that X contradicting
                                    > a physical law but it is an *exception* to that rule ...?

                                    I don't think of an exception as a contradiction.
                                    Relevant to our subject, however, is that recognized
                                    exceptions to general natural laws are both
                                    repeatable and predictable. By definition, however,
                                    miracles are neither.

                                    > And could it not be that if X contradicts "valid
                                    > physical laws," then those were not physical laws
                                    > in the first place?

                                    To rule out that possibility was exactly why the
                                    word 'valid' was included.

                                    > So definitely a scientist would not want to accept P.

                                    Both of your above objections are, IMO, ruled out by
                                    the wording of P, so this hardly follows, and in fact
                                    I believe that the opposite to be generally the case.

                                    > Our understanding of physical laws and the more
                                    > we study them, the more we see that they are not
                                    > absolute. ... That's the only way one can argue
                                    > against miracles. And I don't see any reason for
                                    > accepting that.

                                    Seems to me you accept much more questionable
                                    claims on much less evidence. Myself, I don't see
                                    any reason to take somebody's word for it that a
                                    supernatural event has occurred. Especially not
                                    in the context of a set of documents the main
                                    purpose of which was to engender belief in the
                                    divinity of a particular human being. To me the
                                    nature miracles (not the healings) are like halos
                                    on religious paintings - they simply weren't there
                                    in the real events (inaccurately) pictured.

                                    Best wishes,
                                    Mike Grondin
                                    Mt. Clemens, MI
                                  • Theodore Weeden
                                    ... Besides the fact that you, in my opinion, gloss over or ignore significant christological and theological differences among the four canonical evangelists,
                                    Message 17 of 30 , Jul 19, 2006
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                                      Apolonio Latar wrote on July 13:

                                      > Dr. Weeden,
                                      >
                                      > I believe I have implicitly answered some of your objections and
                                      > statements
                                      > in other posts so I will limit my response to the following (and I will
                                      > also
                                      > try to look up the sources you have mentioned).
                                      >
                                      > "I have a number of problems with your position here. Where do you find
                                      > Christians universally proclaiming the same message, and what exactly is
                                      > the
                                      > content of that message? If they had the same message, why does Paul get
                                      > so riled up against Christian teachers and apostles with a different
                                      > message
                                      > in 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians and Phil 3, for example? And why are
                                      > the
                                      > messages of the four Gospels so diverse? I would suggest that you read
                                      > Frederik Wisse's article, "The Use of Early Christian Literature as
                                      > Evidence
                                      > for Inner Diversity and Conflict," in _Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism, and Early
                                      > Christianity_Christianity_<WBR>, ed. Charles W. Hedrick and Robert Hodgs
                                      >
                                      > Response:
                                      > Well, I said that Christians *tried* to have the same message throughout.
                                      > That is why we see a lot of "controlling" or debates in early
                                      > Christianity. I
                                      > think the diversity factor in early Christianity was a matter of emphasis
                                      > and
                                      > application of the events to one's culture and worldview. One example is
                                      > Luke,
                                      > a Greek. I interpret the prodigal son as having an allusion to the Jewish
                                      > and Gentile people. The prodigal son referring to the Gentile and the
                                      > first to
                                      > the Jewish. But that does not mean that he has a different message than,
                                      > say,
                                      > Mark. Both speak of the importance of repentance and forgiveness. All the
                                      > gospels and Paul speak of Jesus as the messiah and all of them speak of
                                      > Jesus
                                      > as the Son of God. All speak of them speaks of Christ fulfilling
                                      > prophecies in
                                      > the Old Testament and all of them speak of the kingdom of God being at
                                      > hand.
                                      > Now, one may wish to argue against me on the concept of the kingdom of
                                      > God
                                      > here. I basically hold on to Wright's interpretation in his book Jesus
                                      > and the
                                      > Victory of God. Plus, all believe in the significance of the death and
                                      > resurrection of Jesus Christ. So there is unity there.

                                      Besides the fact that you, in my opinion, gloss over or ignore significant
                                      christological and theological differences among the four canonical
                                      evangelists, from my perspective not all Christian documents of the first
                                      and early second century promulgate the same message. Q does not speak of
                                      Jesus as the Son of God, nor does the Gospel of Mary, nor do the earliest
                                      eucharistic traditions found in Did 9 and 10, to cite four examples. In the
                                      earliest eucharistic tradition (Did 10: 2f), Jesus is only a PAIS
                                      ("servant") in the mode of David. And what it means for Jesus to be God's
                                      son is significantly different depending upon what early Christian you
                                      consult. The creedal formula Paul quotes in Rom 1:3 states that Jesus was
                                      only designated as God's son after the resurrection. He was no more than a
                                      descendent of David prior to his resurrection. By contrast, Matthew and
                                      Luke consider Jesus to be God's son by divine insemination of Mary, and John
                                      views him as coterminous with God from the beginning. As far as I can tell,
                                      neither Q, nor the Gospel of Thomas, nor the Gospel of May speaks of "Christ
                                      fulfilling the prophecies of the Old Testament." And the issue of the
                                      presence and/or character of the kingdom is quite different in them from the
                                      canonical authors, who employ different nuances themselves on the issue of
                                      the kingdom. The fact that these non-canonical Gospels are not in the canon
                                      was a political decision of orthodox hegemony, as Wisse has shown (see again
                                      my reference to him in my earlier posts and also in my recent post to Bob
                                      Schacht).

                                      > That doesn't mean that
                                      > there is not diversity. Even in the Catholic Church, and churches in
                                      > full
                                      > communion with Rome, there is a great deal of diversity. But they all
                                      > express the
                                      > same creed although they have different theologies of them. So one can be
                                      > united in doctrine but different theologies. Thomists can hold to
                                      > absolute
                                      > divine simplicity and Palamites can hold to the essence/energies
                                      > distinction.
                                      >
                                      > As for Paul, if we interpret Galatians exegetically, it was more of
                                      > Kephas'
                                      > practice that he was mad at about. Most of the things that angered Paul
                                      > were
                                      > the practices of Christians. It's true that he had to deal with
                                      > "Judaizers,"
                                      > and speaks of those who pervert the gospel, but I don't see that implying
                                      > that
                                      > there are numerous groups in Christianity and that they don't have the
                                      > same
                                      > message.

                                      Different practices are engendered by different beliefs, and diversity in
                                      beliefs about Jesus and his message was rampant among early Christians.
                                      Again, I urge you to read Wisse. You are viewing things, in my judgment,
                                      not from the pluralism and diversity of the multiple Christian traditions of
                                      the first and century, but from the view of "orthodox" hegemony of
                                      particularly the 3rd and 4th century CE.

                                      > And why can't one conclude that those people were just thought to be
                                      > wrong in their beliefs and practices? Again, analogous to the Catholic
                                      > Church, I don't think anyone would say that the Catholic Church does not
                                      > have
                                      > doctrines particular to its religion. Even though we can speak of Kung,
                                      > Guiterrez, etc., is one to conclude that Catholics don't have the same
                                      > message? Just
                                      > because most people don't understand transubstantiation or some are
                                      > trying to
                                      > express the Eucharist as transignification and the such, it does not mean
                                      > that the Catholic Church teaches transubstantiation. Now, you might argue
                                      > that
                                      > this is not an analogy because you believe early Christianity was not
                                      > like the
                                      > Catholic Church. But I disagree here. If we compare the teachings of the
                                      > gospels and Paul, and other letters, they do have the same message with
                                      > different emphasis for each community they were written to.

                                      First of all, you are restricting the literature considered to be gospels to
                                      the canonical four. They were not the only Gospels created by the earliest
                                      Christians. And when one considers all the Gospels written in the first and
                                      early second century CE, there is tremendous differences in their messages.
                                      Orthodoxy has privileged the four canonicals over the other Gospels. None
                                      of the Gospels were written by the disciples of Jesus. And we cannot
                                      recover any of the message of any the named disciples (Peter, James and
                                      John) from any of the Gospels. And the Petrine speeches in Acts are pure
                                      Lukan invention. The Q Gospel is probably the earliest, and Mark I date no
                                      early than the early 80's, with canonical Luke appearing around 115 (see
                                      Joseph Tyson and Richard Pervo). I am convinced the Gospel of Mary
                                      appeared before John and Luke and that both are written in opposition to the
                                      message of the Gospel of Mary. The earliest version of Thomas probably
                                      antedates any of our canonicals. In my reading of early Christian
                                      literature kerygmatic diversity, not uniformity was the order of the day.

                                      > You said,
                                      > "I, along with many other scholars, consider 2 Thessalonians to be a
                                      > pseudonymous letter, written by a Paulinist. Where is there evidence that
                                      > the apostles taught and spread "the gospel" (sic)? If you meant here
                                      > "gospel," where is there evidence that the apostles taught and spread the
                                      > same gospel? See again, my statement above, and particularly see Wisse."
                                      >
                                      > Response:
                                      > As to the first question, I think that is clear in how the gospels are
                                      > written. Unless you are to dispute the historical Peter, James, John,
                                      > Andrew,
                                      > etc., then I don't see how else early Christianity came about. Are you
                                      > willing to
                                      > say that when the canonical gospels lists the apostles that they are
                                      > simply
                                      > fictitious names? How exactly would you reconstruct early Christianity
                                      > without
                                      > the apostles?

                                      I do not dispute the existence of the historical Peter, James, John or
                                      Andrew. I do dispute the existence of the cohort of twelve disciples prior
                                      to post-Easter. However, we know virtually nothing about the four you
                                      mention, at least as concerns their specific interpretation of their
                                      experience with Jesus. We only know that the tradition holds that they had
                                      a post-Easter experience of Jesus. As I stated above, the speeches of
                                      Peter in Acts are a fabrication of Luke in the tradition of ancient
                                      historians (see Thucydides). I hold that Jesus had many followers, not
                                      just the four you mention or 12 (some of them are fictitious creations, such
                                      as Judas, as I have argued in other XTalk posts). The Q community (if that
                                      is a proper term for these people) came into existence as far as I can tell
                                      sans any direct in put from Peter, James or John. The same applies
                                      apparently to the Thomas comunity and to the community which gave rise to
                                      the Gospel of Mary (Mary Magdalene is considered to be the inspiration of
                                      that community). Moreover, there is no evidence that Paul came into the
                                      faith via the faith of Peter, James, John or Andrew. I think that some
                                      Christian communities may well have come into existence through the efforts
                                      of followers of Jesus whose names are lost to us.

                                      > It seems to me that since you hold a suspicion in the gospels,
                                      > then it seems that most of the things in the gospels are not historical
                                      > and
                                      > we do not know much about the historical Jesus from the canonical gospels
                                      > (please clarify here because I don't want to misrepresent you).

                                      We do know a great deal about Jesus. But much of the Gospel tradition is
                                      colored by the idealization of him by post-Easter apologetics, such as
                                      Mark's creation of the passion narrative. It is surprising what little
                                      concern Paul has about the public ministry of Jesus. I could articulate
                                      what I think we can know about Jesus but it would expand this post beyond
                                      appropriate limit.

                                      > If we can't
                                      > hardly know about the historical Jesus, then how would we know the
                                      > historical
                                      > Peter, John, James, etc? Exactly how do you reconstruct early
                                      > Christianity
                                      > without these people?

                                      We know far more about the historical Jesus than we do about the historical
                                      Peter, John and James. In fact, we may no more about James the brother of
                                      Jesus than we do about any of the three you mention. I reconstruct early
                                      Christianity from a historical-critical engagement with all the literature
                                      we possess coming from Christians of the first and second century CE. By
                                      the way, the Jesus Seminar is now embarked on precisely this reconstruction
                                      of the origins of early Christianity.

                                      > So it is really intuitive that the apostles taught the gospel, that they
                                      > taught that Jesus was really risen and they were eyewitnesses. 1 Cor. 15
                                      > has
                                      > that and the gospels having these names show that it is plausible that the
                                      > claim
                                      > that Jesus rose again were from the disciples. We also know, for example,
                                      > from early sources that the apostles did move around. Are you suggesting
                                      > that
                                      > Peter never went to Rome? They did not simply stay in Jerusalem. As for
                                      > spreading the same gospel, well, that we have the gospels saying that
                                      > Jesus rose
                                      > again, is the messiah, and that the kingdom of God has come and Jesus
                                      > will come
                                      > again, I think they didn't do that bad in proclaiming the same message.

                                      I do not know what you mean by the use of the word "intuitive." I agree
                                      that we have evidentiary support from a number of Christian sources that
                                      Peter and others had post-Easter experiences of Jesus and that they served
                                      as eyewitnesses of the claim that Jesus had risen from the dead, as they
                                      interpreted that experience. But as to their witness to Jesus pre-Easter,
                                      we have virtually little of their specific kerygmatic witness. As to the
                                      issue of itinerating, yes, I think that Peter and others moved from
                                      community to community, and Peter may well have reached Rome.

                                      I will be gone from tonight until late Saturday, so should you wish to
                                      respond to any thing I have presented here, I will not be able to reply
                                      until probably Sunday.

                                      Best regards,

                                      Ted Weeden
                                      Theodore J. Weeden, Sr.
                                      Fairport, NY
                                      Ph.D., Claremont Graduate University
                                    • Bob Schacht
                                      At 08:22 AM 7/19/2006, Ted Weeden wrote, among other things: [snipping areas of clarification and agreement] ... First, let me preface my response by thanking
                                      Message 18 of 30 , Jul 23, 2006
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                                        At 08:22 AM 7/19/2006, Ted Weeden wrote, among other things:

                                        [snipping areas of clarification and agreement]

                                        >Bob Schacht wrote on Wednesday, July 12:
                                        >
                                        > > There is another concern I have about this, and that is the contempt shown
                                        > > for the ancient process of canonization among "liberal" scholars. Given the
                                        > > scholarly apparatus available to 4th century scholars, I don't think they
                                        > > did such a bad job. Maybe giving canonized works more cred than
                                        > > non-canonized works is not as unreasonable a position as you seem to
                                        > > imply.
                                        >
                                        >Here is where we differ. I think that the canonization process finally was
                                        >a political process engineered by Rome, Ephesus, Caesarea and churches of
                                        >Asia Minor (see Frederik Wisse, "The Use of Early Christian Literature as
                                        >Evidence for Inner Diversity and Conflict," in Nag Hammadi, Gnosticism, and
                                        >Early Christianity, ed. Charles W. Hedrick and Robert Hodgson, Jr. (1986),
                                        >177-191),and promulgated by Hegesippus and Eusebius.

                                        First, let me preface my response by thanking you for your courteous
                                        clarifications and agreement with many parts of my previous post.
                                        To the current point above, I do not disagree that canonization was a
                                        political process. Of course it was. I learned about this first, and most
                                        comprehensively, from Elaine Pagels' book on the Gnostic Gospels. I am not
                                        claiming that her summary is better, only that it is where I first
                                        substantially encountered this perspective.
                                        But to say that the process was political does not mean that it had no
                                        validity, or was somehow independent of historical veracity. Besides, I am
                                        reminded of the story about sausage making: if you enjoy the results, you
                                        may not want to know too much about how it was made!

                                        But of course, "how it was made" is one of our concerns on this list.

                                        > I quote here Eusebius
                                        >on Hegesippus, whom Eusebius seems to have accepted as proclaiming the
                                        >"gospel" truth with regard to the surety of the pristine apostolic origin of
                                        >doctrinal orthodoxy, an orthodoxy that remained, according to Hegesippus,
                                        >pure and uncorrupted throughout the apostolic age and only became challenged
                                        >and subject to corruption with the dawn of heresy in the post-apostolic era.
                                        >
                                        >Thus, Eusebius reports (H. E., III, 32.7) Hegesippus averring that until the
                                        >post-apostolic period "*the church remained a pure and uncorrupted virgin*,"
                                        >for those who attempted to corrupt the healthful rule of the Saviour's
                                        >preaching, if they existed at all, lurked in obscure darkness. But when the
                                        >sacred band of the Apostles and the generation of those to whom it had been
                                        >vouchsafed to hear with their own ears the divine wisdom had reached the
                                        >several ends of their lives, then the federation of godless error took its
                                        >beginning through the deceit of false teachers who, seeing that none of the
                                        >Apostles still remained, barefacedly tried against the preaching of the
                                        >truth the counter-proclamation of 'knowledge falsely so-called'" (emphasis:
                                        >TJW).
                                        >
                                        > From my perspective, we must be careful that we do not "buy in" to the
                                        >position of the ancient Christian historians, such as the author of Acts,
                                        >Hegesippus and Eusebius, who present the impression that Christianity began
                                        >in apostolic, doctrinal purity and was only later subjected to heretical
                                        >aberrations which challenged and threatened its orthodoxy.

                                        Please remember that I am an anthropologist. You will have to pin the
                                        "apostolic, doctrinal purity" tail on some other donkey.

                                        >Ancient Christian historians, Wisse observes, had disdain for diversity, i.e.,
                                        >deviation from what they considered to be normative and authentic. As
                                        >Wisse puts it, "ancient Christian historians from the author of Acts to
                                        >Eusebius tended to explain diversity in terms of truth and falsehood: change
                                        >was seen as falsification and conflict as instigated by demonic forces"
                                        >(180).

                                        All this says is that different interested parties had different ideas
                                        about what we would call historical validity. Let's not commit academic
                                        anachronism by insisting that writers of the first four centuries of the
                                        current era conform to modern standards of historical scholarship. We, too,
                                        show "disdain for diversity"-- for example, Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code, or
                                        even Schonfield or other popular writers on our subject matter. We, too,
                                        have a concern for "authenticity."

                                        >The canonization process, in my judgment, was the result of the
                                        >intolerance for such diversity.

                                        Oh, phoo. We do the same thing. We just dress up our intolerance in
                                        academically respectable language.

                                        > I think it is regretable that the canon became fixed
                                        >and other fine Christian writings were summarily "deleted" as disdainful
                                        >"spam" even "viruses" corrupting the orthodox "programs, to place the issue
                                        >of canonization in contemporary terms of computereze. I think we in the
                                        >Christian faith have suffered a great loss because of the political
                                        >decisions made in the 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries of "orthodox" hegemony.

                                        So, are you arguing for a different canon, or are you arguing against the
                                        very idea of a canon?
                                        I agree that there are a number of works that did not make it into the
                                        canon that are historically important-- such as the Didache, and maybe the
                                        Gospel of Mary of Magdala (see Karen King). But most of what the canonizers
                                        tossed aside were, by modern standards as well as ancient standards,
                                        historically worthless. For every Gospel of Thomas, there were a dozen
                                        works of fancy.

                                        >Thanks for engaging me on the issues of methodology. And thank you for your
                                        >kind and thoughtful note with regard to my "flooding disaster," and your
                                        >appreciation of the sense of loss, having experienced the same catastrophe.
                                        >I have almost gotten all my books dried out, after five days of "sunbathing"
                                        >them on my deck.

                                        Good! I'm glad the sunshine was cooperating.

                                        >Best regards (even when we disagree strongly),

                                        Likewise,
                                        Bob



                                        Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
                                        Research Center, University of Hawaii
                                        Honolulu, HI
                                      • Rikk Watts
                                        ... HI Ted, Sorry about the delay, just got back into town. Sorry to hear about your troubles and hope that things are beginning to get sorted out again. Well,
                                        Message 19 of 30 , Jul 23, 2006
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                                          On 10/7/06 7:10 AM, "Theodore Weeden" <Tweeden@...> wrote:

                                          > Listers,
                                          >
                                          > As some of you know ---if you have followed the exchange between Rikk Watts
                                          > and I regarding my thesis that Mark created Judas' betrayal--- I maintain
                                          > that the following methodological presupposition obtains with respect to the
                                          > question of the historicity of Gospel accounts. I am curious to know
                                          > whether listers agree or disagree with this presupposition, namely:
                                          >
                                          > (1) Given the purpose and nature of oral tradition in oral
                                          > societies ---which the earliest Christian communities were--- and (2) given
                                          > the increasingly common practice of historiography in the first-century
                                          > Mediterranean world, and (3) given the rhetorical character of the Gospels,
                                          > in the hermeneutical pursuit of historicity in the Gospel narratives, the
                                          > historical veracity of any given Gospel account must be plausibly, if not
                                          > persuasively, demonstrated ---insofar as anything
                                          > historical can be demonstrated--- rather than at the outset privileging or
                                          > premising its historical authenticity, or even its core as historically
                                          > authentic. Thus, the onus of persuasion is upon those who would argue for
                                          > the historicity of any Gospel account.

                                          HI Ted,

                                          Sorry about the delay, just got back into town. Sorry to hear about your
                                          troubles and hope that things are beginning to get sorted out again.

                                          Well, the discussion has certainly moved on since the opening gambit, and
                                          probably rightly so. The arguments as to Paul¹s and others¹ silence on Judas
                                          were not compelling and if you can dismiss John¹s dissimilar account as
                                          dependent on Mark it is difficult to see on what grounds you would accept
                                          any other account as authentic (even GJu with its unique perspective accepts
                                          that Judas betrayed Jesus). Similarly the arguments based on the putative
                                          troubling narrative gaps are almost certainly anachronistic since neither
                                          Matt nor Luke, the best evidence we have of first century expectations re
                                          Mark¹s literary skills, appear to have noticed or worried by them.

                                          I think this has helped clarify the real point which is in fact where we¹ve
                                          come to: your long-standing opinion that Mark is simply unreliable and
                                          should not be trusted without external verification (at which point I would
                                          cite John ‹ seen by many now to have access to independent traditions ‹ and
                                          GJu and rest my case).

                                          But now to your other points:
                                          1. Oral tradition:
                                          a. to the degree that early Xty was Jewish I cannot accept that it can
                                          accurately be described as an oral culture simpliciter (certainly not in
                                          terms of Vansina¹s work which is based on African oral cultures). The
                                          practice of Synagogue reading, the development in the first century BC of
                                          more formal Jewish education (cf. Jesus¹ reading of the scroll in Lk 4), the
                                          strong literary component of Jewish religion (btw noted Egyptologist Kenneth
                                          Kitchen continues to point out, though few seem to listen, that from ancient
                                          times if something was important it was written down in which case most of
                                          the major ancient near eastern cultures were in this respect literary not
                                          oral), and e.g. the careful preservation of Isa as per 1QIsa, are hardly
                                          hallmarks of a fundamentally oral society. No doubt orality played a role,
                                          but so too clearly did literacy especially when it came to important
                                          traditions. The burgeoning growth of NT documents within a couple of decades
                                          of the original events (hardly the multiple generations with which Vansina
                                          and others are concerned) is surely significant in this respect.

                                          b. the reliability of the oral tradition: you approvingly cite Vansina
                                          (though one might ask, whether in the light of the above, African studies
                                          are an appropriate grid through which to read first century Jewish Christian
                                          practice) but doesn¹t he in fact say, with respect to poetry, that while
                                          some variation should be expected there was very little change in the actual
                                          message and wording of the tradition in the first and second generations
                                          beyond the oldest living witnesses (1985, 14-15; 49-50; 192-3)? If so, then
                                          would it not be more accurate to see him as evidence against your position,
                                          not least given a) the poetic character of much of Jesus¹ teaching (which
                                          suggests that he too was concerned that his words be remembered and what
                                          teacher worth his salt would not be so concerned?), b) the fact that though
                                          the Gospels might vary details in their stories they are often nearly
                                          identical in the actual punchlines to which those stories lead (hence Dunn¹s
                                          thesis), and c) Gerhardsson¹s often dismissed but to my mind never
                                          effectively countered arguments based on the importance of accurate memory
                                          in the rabbinic tradition. In this respect it is intriguing that you also
                                          approvingly cite Byrskog, but on my understanding he too, as a student of
                                          Gerhardsson, would emphatically disagree with you. Does he not also hold
                                          that the oral traditions behind the Gospels have faithfully selected,
                                          conveyed, and interpreted eyewitness testimony?

                                          2. re Hellenistic historians and the rhetorical nature of the gospels (much
                                          depends on what you mean by rhetorical):
                                          a. the extended quotations are helpful but it seems to me that the case they
                                          present is not quite as friendly to your thesis as you suppose. The fact
                                          that Seneca fulminates against dishonest historians surely indicates that
                                          people were concerned for the truth. Quintilian¹s observation that it is
                                          "sometimes" permitted to fabricate but only in exceptional circumstances to
                                          forestall a greater evil, suggests that as a rule it is not. Hence his
                                          asseveration that no man can be an orator unless he is a good man (Inst.
                                          XII, I) which from the context means a person of honesty and integrity. He
                                          too was apparently very concerned with truthfulness. That Josephus creates
                                          certain details is indeed noteworthy but surely because he is elsewhere
                                          taken as fairly reliable. Paul and Luke seem fully aware of the problem of
                                          dishonesty and assert or imply that they are not like such falsifiers (see
                                          below). What I would need to understand is how you would reconcile the NT's
                                          thoroughgoing concern for ethics and truth, with wholesale fabrication? (As
                                          an aside, I think Gordon¹s proposal that the gospels are merely art can
                                          safely be dismissed as a post-Camusian anachronism; I doubt very much that
                                          any ancient reader would have even understood the category; but I¹d be more
                                          than happy for Gordon to cite some supporting historical evidence.)

                                          b. Moreover, simply noting that some people were dishonest says nothing
                                          about Mark, Matt, Lk, or John. Who is to say if in the Judas account they
                                          are not actually following what Quintilian and Seneca believe to be
                                          appropriate standard practice and are simply telling the truth? Your case
                                          would be strengthened if you could show evidence of the exceptional
                                          circumstances that Quint. mentions: what justice is served that otherwise
                                          would not have been if the Judas story had not been there? There is nothing
                                          inherently unreasonable about the idea of Judas betraying Jesus, and as I¹ve
                                          said several times, by your own lights, you would need to provide
                                          corroborating evidence from the first and second century that Judas did not
                                          do so. It seems odd to me that you expect us to dismiss Mark (even though
                                          Matt and Lk, who happily go their own way from Mark when it suits, and an
                                          independent John do not) but expect us to accept a proposal ­ 2000 years
                                          distant from the original event and a cultural universe away ‹ and that
                                          without any independent corroborating contemporary evidence. I am unclear as
                                          to why you do not feel bound by the same exacting standards you require of
                                          Mark.

                                          3. re Mark¹s genre.
                                          a. No doubt Mark contains parables but to describe the entire gospel in
                                          these terms is surely overkill and to confuse symbolism and symbolic action
                                          with literary genre. It seems to me that Burridge¹s case (cf. Aune, Talbert)
                                          essentially still stands: whatever they are, the gospels are surely some
                                          form of ancient biography (and as such have as their focus an attempt to
                                          preserve and defend the teaching and memory of their subject).

                                          b. Re: Herodotus' "critical persona" (sounds a tad anachronistic to me) and
                                          Luke as it bears on Mark: this seems to be the old saw that because someone
                                          is convinced that something happened they cannot be trusted. How does that
                                          follow? Their conviction might just as well come from research as from
                                          gullibility. The argument that unless the author pretends to a putative
                                          critical stance his material is less reliable is to mistake genre, and thus
                                          intended audience, with truth claims. How e.g. Luke or Mark chose to present
                                          their material depends on the intended audience: since when does writing for
                                          a middle brow audience necessarily preclude telling the truth? In this
                                          respect while Acts¹ parallels with ancient novels has long been noted,
                                          Pervo's characterization of Luke's two-volume work is reductionist. It is
                                          clear, as Pervo himself recognizes, that Luke intends a close relationship
                                          between his gospel and Acts (cf. the prologues to both). No ancient novel
                                          begins by claiming to be interested in the traditions handed down, nor would
                                          novelists work with sources as does Luke in his gospel (a simple comparison
                                          with the Acts of Paul and Thecla ought to reinforce these distinctions).
                                          Similarly, is not some romantic element also de rigueur (a novelistic
                                          topos), or at least some kind of sexual anxiety? This is hardly to be found
                                          in Acts. Pervo must also make what I think is the highly unlikely claim that
                                          Luke's prologue is simply conventional, namely that an ancient reader would
                                          not have taken it at face value. On the other hand, Lk-Acts does exhibit a
                                          number of parallels with historiography (cf. also Hengel, and Hemer). So no,
                                          Ted, Pervo has not demonstrated that Acts is primarily an ancient novel.
                                          More likely Acts is in a sense sui generis and thus Alexander's surmise ­
                                          ³F]or readers educated in the Greek classics, much of the narrative content
                                          of Acts would place it in the dangerous-area of 'fiction' ³ ­ is based on an
                                          inaccurate assessment of Acts.

                                          ii. similarly, to suggest that the reordering of events can only be evidence
                                          of lack of interest in historicity is hardly convincing. Both then and now
                                          popular forms of literature and communication regularly do this precisely
                                          because they are committed to truth, doing so only in order to make some
                                          sense out of what would otherwise be the impenetrable mass of everyday
                                          detail.

                                          iii. As to Luke fabricating or re-ordering stories, since each of your
                                          examples is open to another interpretation (e.g. his having John¹s
                                          imprisonment prior to the story about Jesus¹ baptism is hardly a ³problem²
                                          since it merely follows a common and easily recognizable HB/LXX narrative
                                          recapitulation technique whereby a brief summary of the action is followed
                                          by a more detailed account focusing on the important elements; I suspect
                                          even the dullest reader would recognize that it would be impossible for John
                                          to baptize Jesus if he was in prison and so this must have happened
                                          earlier), without further detailed analysis they amount only to assertion on
                                          your part.

                                          4. re Mark and the mythic world: this I suspect is the crunch point for you.
                                          But again this strikes me as a non-sequitur: just because Mark believes in
                                          demons, miraculous healings, etc. does not mean he does not tell the truth
                                          when describing events with which Western materialists are more comfortable.
                                          E.g. Mormon's believe in things that most of us would not accept and yet
                                          their reputation for honesty is wide-spread. In fact, one might argue that
                                          it is precisely because Mark believes in a just and righteous God who
                                          engages with his world and requires his people to imitate his character that
                                          one can expect him to be more truthful than most. (As to the existence of
                                          such a world, how I wish you could have had dinner with us four nights ago
                                          and half a world away when a well-educated businessman, son of two
                                          university professors and married to a high-flying lawyer, shared how it was
                                          that his whole family (including parents) became Christian. Apparently that
                                          mythical world is very much alive even today. You might have found his
                                          comments on Western skepticism interesting).

                                          Sorry this is so longŠ but one good (lengthy) turn deserves (in the best
                                          sense) another. I¹ll engage with some of your subsequent points later.

                                          Hope this finds you well
                                          Rikk
                                        • Bob Schacht
                                          At 01:55 PM 8/6/2006, Theodore Weeden wrote: Ted, thanks for your response. I have snipped a bunch of our exchanges to ... You still don t seem to be grasping
                                          Message 20 of 30 , Aug 6, 2006
                                          • 0 Attachment
                                            At 01:55 PM 8/6/2006, Theodore Weeden wrote:

                                            Ted, thanks for your response. I have snipped a bunch of our exchanges to
                                            focus on the remaining areas:


                                            > > To the current point above, I do not disagree that canonization was a
                                            > > political process. Of course it was. . . .
                                            > > But to say that the process was political does not mean that it had no
                                            > > validity, or was somehow independent of historical veracity. . . .
                                            > >
                                            >
                                            >And that is the issue. The political issue I have in mind is orthodox
                                            >hegemony, well-entrenched in the Church, particularly the Western Church, as
                                            >indicated by Wisse, in the latter part of the 2nd century. . . .

                                            You still don't seem to be grasping my point. If orthodoxy had an axe to
                                            grind as its primary concern, that does not preclude an interest in
                                            historicity as a secondary concern. You seem to EXCLUDE historicity as any
                                            part of anything in their assessment. I do not agree with this insistance.

                                            Besides, isn't it a bit anachronistic for you (or Wisse, for that matter)
                                            to be forcing this hegemony back into the 2nd century? What evidence do
                                            you, or he, have that this "well-entrenched" hegemony applied equally to
                                            Egypt, the former territories of Judea, Samaria and Galilee, Syria,
                                            Antioch, Corinth, and Rome? I don't think that this kind of hegemony can be
                                            demonstrated. Hypothesized, yes, demonstrated, no.

                                            > I would suggest that Gospels such as Q, Thomas, and Mary were
                                            >rejected by orthodoxy because they did not advocate or support orthodox
                                            >hegemony.

                                            Oh, phoo. They didn't know Q as a distinct document, so how could they
                                            reject it? And they did accept Matthew and Luke, which contain all of Q
                                            that we know about, so how can you say it was "rejected"? Sounds
                                            anachronistic, to me.

                                            > I do not think that the question of historical veracity, per se,
                                            >entered into the issue of what was accepted and what was rejected, except
                                            >with regard to authoritative authorship of a document. . . .

                                            I think authority and authenticity were their concerns. They had a
                                            different idea of authenticity than you do, but that doesn't mean they
                                            weren't motivated by authenticity.

                                            You spent a lot of time talking about the Life and Death traditions.
                                            Serendipitously, on CNN right now, reporting from Israel & Lebanon,
                                            Anderson Cooper mentioned someone saying "They sanctify Death; we sanctify
                                            Life." Looks like the debate has been around for a long time. Just because
                                            you "prefer" the Life Tradition does not mean that others, in antiquity,
                                            regarded the Death Tradition as more authentic (even if they were wrong).

                                            "Authenticity" is subjective. What is "authentic" for one person may not
                                            seem authentic to others. What seemed "authentic" in Antioch may not have
                                            seemed authentic in Egypt. I remain to be convinced that an orthodox
                                            hegemony was in force throughout the Mediterranean world in the Second
                                            Century. Just because Irenaus ranted about heretics doesn't mean everyone
                                            agreed with him.

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

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