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

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  • Jack Kilmon
    ... From: Bob Schacht To: Sent: Tuesday, July 11, 2006 12:52 AM Subject: Ted s reply Re: [XTalk]
    Message 1 of 12 , Jul 11, 2006
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      ----- Original Message -----
      From: "Bob Schacht" <r_schacht@...>
      To: <crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Tuesday, July 11, 2006 12:52 AM
      Subject: Ted's reply Re: [XTalk] Methodological Presupposition re Gospel
      Accounts



      > I do not mean that we should all become credulous of every miracle story.
      > I
      > have a certain amount of natural skepticism about claims of extraordinary
      > events, but I am not willing to automatically label them as unhistorical,
      > just because they are improbable. Furthermore, I am keenly aware that
      > many
      > things that *seem* extraordinary have, in fact, mundane causes when more
      > facts become known, and when one has the chance to view the situation from
      > a different angle. Therefore I am not in as much of a rush as you seem to
      > be to throw out everything that seems unusual.

      The issue is what would be considered "unusual" to someone living in the 1st
      century Middle East against the unusual today. I probably encounter
      hundreds of 1st century "miracles" every day. Jesus lived in a society that
      believed all infirmities were the result of sin, even the sins of parents.
      I do not think that it is a coincidence that those hysterical infirmities
      caused by guilt treated by modern psychiatrists are paralysis, skin rashes,
      blindness and deafness. In the 1st century one who was believed to have the
      authority from God to forgive the sin could cure many diseases.

      I think that this "chapter" of HJ research is NOT to dismiss the miracles as
      inventions by the hagiographers or oral transmitters but to examine whether
      something "unusual" did indeed happen. This also applies to the primary
      catalyst for Christianity, Jesus showing up for a fish dinner at some period
      of time after the crucifixion.

      Jack Kilmon
      San Marcos, Texas
    • Lee Edgar Tyler
      ... It s worth noting that much of the contemporary world holds to a relationship with the miraculous that is analogous to that of Jesus day. With respect
      Message 2 of 12 , Jul 11, 2006
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        Jack Kilmon wrote:

        >
        > ----- Original Message -----
        > From: "Bob Schacht" <r_schacht@... <mailto:r_schacht%40yahoo.com>>
        >
        > > I do not mean that we should all become credulous of every miracle
        > story.
        > > I
        > > have a certain amount of natural skepticism about claims of
        > extraordinary
        > > events, but I am not willing to automatically label them as
        > unhistorical,
        > > just because they are improbable. Furthermore, I am keenly aware that
        > > many
        > > things that *seem* extraordinary have, in fact, mundane causes when more
        > > facts become known, and when one has the chance to view the
        > situation from
        > > a different angle. Therefore I am not in as much of a rush as you
        > seem to
        > > be to throw out everything that seems unusual.
        >
        > The issue is what would be considered "unusual" to someone living in
        > the 1st
        > century Middle East against the unusual today. I probably encounter
        > hundreds of 1st century "miracles" every day. Jesus lived in a society
        > that
        > believed all infirmities were the result of sin, even the sins of
        > parents.
        > I do not think that it is a coincidence that those hysterical infirmities
        > caused by guilt treated by modern psychiatrists are paralysis, skin
        > rashes,
        > blindness and deafness. In the 1st century one who was believed to
        > have the
        > authority from God to forgive the sin could cure many diseases.
        >
        > I think that this "chapter" of HJ research is NOT to dismiss the
        > miracles as
        > inventions by the hagiographers or oral transmitters but to examine
        > whether
        > something "unusual" did indeed happen. This also applies to the primary
        > catalyst for Christianity, Jesus showing up for a fish dinner at some
        > period
        > of time after the crucifixion.
        >
        > Jack Kilmon
        > San Marcos, Texas __,
        >

        It's worth noting that much of the contemporary world holds to a
        relationship with the miraculous that is analogous to that of Jesus'
        day. With respect to this primary catalyst, we can point to any
        number of accounts of purported appearances of people after death taken
        from so-called "primitive" cultures. We can also point to an even
        greater number of "miraculous" healings, apparations, and assorted
        wondrous events. There's never any need to resort to the supernatural
        to account for any of them, of course. But you are quite right in
        suggesting that usually "something happened" to initiate the tales.

        There is no calculus by which we can distinguish a purely literary
        invention by a hagiographer from an antecedent legend that arose from
        the oral tradition's attempt to account for something happening if that
        account was subsequently put into writing. It'd be nice if we had one,
        but we don't. The present state of evidence will not warrant a reliable
        judgment as to whether most of these accounts are the literary creations
        of the Gospelers, or whether they were incorporated into the Gospels
        from an antecedent oral tradition.

        I think the same thing is true of the Judas question, and hope to
        respond to Ted on that later today.

        Ed Tyler

        By the way, I'm having webmail difficulties as I travel this summer, so
        if this comes through twice or thrice or more, my apologies to the list.

        > _._,___
        >
      • Theodore Weeden
        ... I am mystified as to why you took such offense here. I am not presenting charges against any one. I think it is a fair question, among others, as to what
        Message 3 of 12 , Jul 12, 2006
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          Bob Schacht wrote on July 11, 2006:

          > At 11:55 AM 7/10/2006, Theodore Weeden wrote:

          >>Bob Schacht wrote on July 10, 2006
          >>
          >> > I do not have the time for a detailed response. However, I want to
          >> > register
          >>a vigorous protest against your third presumption. I am NOT arguing that
          >>the gospels are privileged in some way. <
          >>
          >>[Ted]
          >>I am wondering, however, if there is not a conscious or unconscious
          >>tendency
          >>among New Testament scholars (I am not suggesting *all*) of privileging
          >>the
          >>historicity of the Gospel narratives out of a subjective, but
          >>unarticulated,
          >>inherent faith commitment in some degree or other to Jesus. . . .

          > Ted,
          > I am at a loss as to how to answer this charge. Your subsequent mea culpa
          > only serves to underscore your "J'accuse!" There is nothing that anyone
          > can
          > say against a charge like this, so I can only dismiss it as lying beyond
          > the domain of scholarly discourse.

          > Your charge is different from saying that none of us are unbiased, that we
          > all have biases of one sort or another. This one is more serious, and
          > impossible to defend against. Frankly, I am astonished.

          > It also leads me to wonder if "Thou dost protest too much" so that, having
          > given your own mea culpa, you are now determined to establish your
          > credentials as free of all taint of faith-induced bias, by tearing to
          > shreds all of the canonical gospels. I am at a loss how else to explain
          > this bizarre introduction to your reply. I am deeply puzzled by these
          > introductory remarks, as we have met a number of times amicably, and have
          > engaged periodically here on CrossTalk in mostly amicable terms.

          I am mystified as to why you took such offense here. I am not presenting
          charges against any one. I think it is a fair question, among others, as to
          what degree a scholar's commitment to the Christian faith influences his
          hermeneutic and particularly his predilection to privilege the historicity
          of Gospel accounts. I shared my own struggle with this to indicate that I
          have had to come to terms with the tension between faith and
          historical-critical judgment when that tension occurs. I think that there
          is evidence that Roman Catholic scholars who seek the imprimatur of
          ecclesiastical authority are careful in how they nuance their historical
          judgment when it could well challenge doctrine. As a case in point,
          consider Raymond Brown's exposition on the issue of the virgin birth, or
          better, as Brown insists, the virginal conception (_The Birth of the
          Messiah_, 517-531). Brown stakes out the various theories for and against
          the historicity of the virginal conception, but never states his own
          historical-critical conclusion. I would be so bold as to suggest that
          Wright also, given his position as Anglican bishop and his deep commitment
          to the faith, tends to premise the historicity of Gospel accounts. John
          Shelby Spong, of course, also Episcopal bishop and strongly committed to the
          faith, is far more skeptical about finding historicity in Gospel narratives.
          Furthermore, those scholars of conservative Protestant communions do tend to
          reflect the historical-critical position of those communions, though there
          are likely exceptions.

          My own personal statement was not a *mea culpa* , as you state. It was a
          mere statement of my own wrestling between my right and left hemisphere, if
          I may make recourse to brain theory. Via my right hemisphere I experience
          mystically and intuitively the very foundation of my own faith. My right
          hemisphere, being the logical sphere of my intelligence, demands empirical
          verification and rationale coherency and integrity. I would be surprised
          if many scholars do not find tension at time between the faith of the right
          hemisphere and the logic of the left hemisphere. I think the issue of the
          faith question as it affects hermeneutics is an appropriate question to
          raise. I do so not to press charges against any one as you suggest, only
          asking for the issue to be brought to the light of day and discussed with a
          professional and respectful discourse. If the moderators of Crosstalk,
          find it an inappropriate issue to address, I will, of course, honor that
          judgment.

          Bob, I have very high respect for you as a person and a scholar. I have had
          the pleasure of getting to know you personally in different geographical
          settings. I have enjoyed the time we have shared together. I have
          profited from your critical response to my theories over the years, and I
          have found that response to be telling against my own positions, and I have,
          on occasion, modified them as a result. Our exchange over my critical
          repudiation of Bailey's theory of oral tradition comes readily to mind. I
          apologize if I have offended you. It was in no way my intention to do so.

          >> >But neither do I assume, as you
          >>seem to, that we must START with the presumption that they were all liars
          >>and cheats and that nothing they write can be accepted unless it can be
          >>demonstrated from other sources.<
          >>
          >>[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.

          I do not consider that my methodological presupposition leads me to dismiss
          the framers of the oral tradition and the Gospel writers who followed them
          because they invented stories which have virtually no basis in fact. I am
          convinced that they believed the stories from their perspective to be true
          in that the stories pointed to a truth they believed in. That is what I
          understand Vansina (_Oral Tradition as History_) has in mind when he says:
          "Historical truth is . . . a notion that is culture specific . . . . In
          many cultures truth is what is being faithfully repeated as content and has
          been certified as true by ancestors. But sometimes truth does not include
          the notion that x and y really happened" (129). Thus, a tradition can be
          considered "true" in an oral culture but the tradition may not be factual.
          That is what I mean when I state that the Gospel writers invented material
          which they thought was true but were not concerned about its factual
          historicity. Jesus invented stories, parables, which he considered true
          and those who were won over to their parabolic message considered to be
          true, also. But Jesus, in inventing the stories which were not likely
          historically true (Mahlon Smith has argued that the Parable of the Prodigal
          may be autobiographical), certainly was not a liar or a cheat, any more than
          the person who told the story about George Washington, as a lad, cutting
          down a cherry tree and, then, with abject honesty, confessing that he had
          done so.

          >>I do not hold, furthermore, "that *nothing* they write can be accepted
          >>unless it can be demonstrated from other sources." I think, as Loveday
          >>Alexander posits (see my post to Rikk Watts), that the historical question
          >>is properly asked of all Gospel accounts.
          >
          > Well, of course, to the same extent-- no more, no less-- as other
          > contemporary sources.
          >
          >>There are a number of ways to
          >>test the historical plausibility of an account. If the factors that lead
          >>to the likelihood of the implausibility of an account out weigh the
          >>historical plausibility of an account (e.g., the virginal conception of
          >>Jesus, his walking on water, his physical resuscitation, the Gethsemane
          >>episode, his trials [see my past posts]), then skepticism regarding the
          >>historicity of the account is warranted.
          >
          > Here you side with Crossan in what I call the "Tyranny of the normal"--
          > i.e., that nothing unusual ever happens, and if someone reports something
          > unusual, they are not to be believed. This reduces history to bland
          > unimportance, devoid of anything interesting.

          I think there are a lot of unusual things that happen. I do not dismiss all
          of them out of hand as fabrications. I am intrigued often by the
          paranormal, and I psychics; and wonder if they have an intuitive sense of a
          reality that I do not experience. I am open to that possibility. Years ago
          I was fascinated reading Shirley Maclaine and her interest in channeling,
          etc. But I remain skeptic on much of these claimed phenomena. Yet, I have
          not shut the door entirely.

          > I do not mean that we should all become credulous of every miracle story.
          > I
          > have a certain amount of natural skepticism about claims of extraordinary
          > events, but I am not willing to automatically label them as unhistorical,
          > just because they are improbable. Furthermore, I am keenly aware that
          > many
          > things that *seem* extraordinary have, in fact, mundane causes when more
          > facts become known, and when one has the chance to view the situation from
          > a different angle. Therefore I am not in as much of a rush as you seem to
          > be to throw out everything that seems unusual.

          I do not automatically label such events as unhistorical. I examine them
          for evidence to help me make a judgment as to their historical reality. And
          when the evidence fails to support a conclusion pointing to historical
          reality, I consider them to be unhistorical until new evidence suggests
          otherwise.

          >> > If this presumption was applied across the
          >>board in ancient history, we'd have to rip most of the pages out of our
          >>history books, ISTM. This approach seems rather minimalist.<
          >>
          >>[Ted]
          >>Perhaps, that would be the case for many of the ancient history books and
          >>ancient accounts of geography, according to the critical assessment of
          >>Seneca, Lucian and Plutarch. Modern historians tend to approach the
          >>accounts of the past and present with a healthy skepticism about their
          >>historical veracity until they are reasonably satisfied that there is
          >>reason
          >>to trust the purported historicity of the accounts.

          > I suppose we have a disagreement here over *how much* skepticism is
          > "healthy".

          Perhaps that is a difference between us.

          >> > The problem in much of ancient history is that for many things, we have
          >>only one source. If we use your hermeneutic of suspicion across the board,
          >>we must throw out all such testimony.<
          >>
          >>[Ted]
          >>The issue is not just sources, but rather whether an account comports with
          >>cultural anthropology of the time, for example.
          >
          > As an anthropologist, I certainly like seeing anthropological knowledge
          > applied in the field of biblical studies. However, I am less keen on
          > jumping to conclusions, because often the application is questionable on a
          > number of grounds, and may not be as secure as some folks think.
          >
          >>I have written posts in
          >>which I have suggested that James C. Scott's work is a helpful gauge for
          >>determining the historical plausibility of an account. Take for example
          >>Mark's accounts in Mk 12 of Jesus' engagement with the various cultic
          >>authorities. I find that to be quite implausible given Scott's insights
          >>upon
          >>the character of dominant-subordinate intercourse in hierarchical
          >>structured
          >>societies (see Scott's _Domination and the Arts of Resistance_). It would
          >>have been quite implausible for Jesus to have had such exchanges in that
          >>Judean cultic society or even the purported exchanges with Pilate in the
          >>Roman Imperial society (see Paul Veyne, _The Roman Empire_).

          > What I object to is the rapid conversion of hypothetical parallels into
          > seemingly established "facts." I welcome such hypotheses, but I wish to
          > keep them framed as hypotheses, and not rush to judgment so quickly.

          That is a good word of caution to me, and you are helpful in challenging me
          when you find that I have overdone and pressed too far my sanguine use of
          such hypothesis. I am indebted to you for sharing your knowledge and
          appraisal of cultural anthropology as it applies to the Jesus tradition,
          etc.

          >> >But it seems that you go even beyond this, so as to require not just
          >>dishonesty on the part of a single author, but an active conspiracy
          >>amongst
          >>several authors, for adding credibility to each other's fabrications by
          >>copying each other (i.e., the double and triple traditions).<
          >>
          >>[Ted]
          >>Again, the interest of the evangelists, including Luke, is not so much the
          >>historical veracity of an account or tradition but its persuasiveness in
          >>engendering or enhancing faith in Jesus as the Son of God. Luke, I am
          >>convinced uses the appearance of being an accurate historian by writing
          >>what
          >>would appear to be in that time a scientific (thus historically accurate)
          >>preface to gain credulity upon the part of his audience. That has been, in
          >>my judgment, successfully demonstrated by Richard Pervo (_Profit of
          >>Delight_) with respect to Luke's Acts of the Apostles. Luke writes not via
          >>the constraints of a Herodotean or Thucydidean historian, but as an
          >>ancient
          >>novelist (see, also, Loveday Alexander, as cited in my post to Rikk
          >>Watts).
          >
          > Well, I have not become persuaded on that score at this time. I am not so
          > quick to jump to conclusions.

          I understand.

          >> >My solution tends a bit more to the maximalist, i.e., accept the
          >> >testimony
          >>*unless it is contradicted by other sources* or can be shown to be
          >>unlikely.
          >>
          >>I anticipate that you will quote at length oral studies showing
          >>fabrication
          >>and creativity, etc. etc. This is all good flavoring for the stew, but it
          >>is part of a fallacy of affirming the consequent, that is, a syllogism
          >>like
          >>this:
          >>====================
          >>"A" is an oral tradition
          >>Oral traditions often creatively interpret and even invent past events or
          >>details
          >>"Therefore" all oral traditions are inventions.<
          >>=============================
          >>
          >>[Ted]
          >>I do not accept this syllogism as a representation of my position. Rather,
          >>since "oral traditions often creatively interpret and even invent past
          >>events or details," therefore the historicity of any account cannot be
          >>presumed, much less privileged,

          > I'm with you this far.

          We may be closer in agreement then are exchanges would suggest.

          >>until historical critical analysis derives sufficient evidence to hold
          >>that an account is historical or concludes with
          >>sufficient reasonable warrant to hold that it is plausibly historical.
          >
          > Well, I guess we differ on what is "sufficient," and what is "plausible."

          That seems to be the case. But the issue of sufficiency of evidence and
          plausibility of conclusion should always be on the table for fruitful
          advance in scholarship.

          > Thank you for your reply.

          And thank you for your engaging me once again in issues important to both of
          us.

          Best regards,

          Ted

          Theodore J. Weeden, Sr.
          Retired
          Ph.D., Claremont Graduate University
          Fairport, NY
        • Bob Schacht
          ... Ted, Thank you for your courteous reply. I am packing to return to the mainland for a few weeks, to Wisconsin and Arizona, and since I leave this evening,
          Message 4 of 12 , Jul 12, 2006
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            At 12:25 PM 7/12/2006, Theodore Weeden wrote, among other things:
            > >>[Ted]
            > >>I am wondering, however, if there is not a conscious or unconscious
            > tendency
            > >>among New Testament scholars (I am not suggesting *all*) of privileging the
            > >>historicity of the Gospel narratives out of a subjective, but
            > unarticulated,
            > >>inherent faith commitment in some degree or other to Jesus. . . .

            Ted,
            Thank you for your courteous reply. I am packing to return to the mainland
            for a few weeks, to Wisconsin and Arizona, and since I leave this evening,
            I don't have time for a full reply, and to save bandwidth, I will not
            repeat all of the point and counterpoint on the subject above. I appreciate
            your clarification about your *intent.* Although you didn't come right out
            and say it, I thought that in context, you were implying that I was among
            those you had in mind when you made the observation above.

            However, your musing is rather incomplete. One should equally wonder if
            there is a conscious or unconscious tendency for atheistic scholars to have
            a subjective bias *against* the Gospel narratives. One could-- and should--
            mirror your language for their unconscious biases. And so on, until
            everyone is encompassed within the circle. What I objected to was the
            rather one-sided accusation of unconscious bias, as if this were *only* a
            problem for NT scholars of faith.

            I don't care much for allegations of unconscious bias-- I know that
            everyone is affected, not just people of faith. What I care more about is
            that when one can show a direct line from demonstrable presumptions to
            demonstrable conclusions.

            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.

            Aloha,
            Bob

            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Theodore Weeden
            ... You are welcome. [snip] ... I was not singling you out. Rather, I was raising a general question with respect to the faith issue as it may affect the
            Message 5 of 12 , Jul 19, 2006
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              Bob Schacht wrote on Wednesday, July 12:

              > At 12:25 PM 7/12/2006, Theodore Weeden wrote, among other things:
              >> >>[Ted]
              >> >>I am wondering, however, if there is not a conscious or unconscious
              >> tendency
              >> >>among New Testament scholars (I am not suggesting *all*) of privileging
              >> >>the
              >> >>historicity of the Gospel narratives out of a subjective, but
              >> unarticulated,
              >> >>inherent faith commitment in some degree or other to Jesus. . . .
              >
              > Ted,
              > Thank you for your courteous reply.

              You are welcome.

              [snip]

              > I appreciate
              > your clarification about your *intent.* Although you didn't come right out
              > and say it, I thought that in context, you were implying that I was among
              > those you had in mind when you made the observation above.

              I was not singling you out. Rather, I was raising a general question with
              respect to the faith issue as it may affect the formulation and exercise of
              historical-critical engagement with Biblical texts with any of us. Todd
              Penner addresses the issue, which I have raised, in respect to hermeneutical
              perspectives and methodologies related to the study of Acts (see
              _Contextualizing Acts_, eds. Todd Penner and Caroline Vander Stichele,
              1-21). In reflecting on the various "reading strategies," as Penner puts
              it, and the methodologies employed, Penner identifies "the presence of
              ideological and theological convictions embedded in our methodologies," and
              goes on to note "that the guild of biblical studies commits to particular
              paradigms that are then quite expectedly and thoroughly reinforced in the
              guild. Thus, the delineation of Acts as a piece of ancient *historia* says
              something about the personal commitments to both Acts and history; it means
              something to designate early Christian texts in this manner. The
              resistance to reading Acts as a novel or epic--in part because of the
              undeniable aura of fictionality that surrounds those genres--suggests that
              specific theological and ideological commitments shape the kinds of
              questions we ask and the methods we practice" (11f.).

              Penner observes further that "the evident tendency in collections [of Acts
              studies] noted above to immerse Acts in its Jewish theological context (and
              that as defined largely by Hebrew Bible tradition) and to engage Acts in its
              historical context purely in terms of the history and society of the empire
              and the imperial literature of history demonstrates a particular
              protectionism of biblical texts that can hardly be denied. The studies cited
              above demonstrate a pattern of focusing on Lukan theology in terms of an
              explicitly developed Christian discourse based on interpretations of the
              reconfigured traditions from the Hebrew Bible in the New Testament and/or in
              terms of the discourse of Greco-Roman historiography or sociocultural sphere
              of a safely constructed Roman Empire. These are comfortable areas for
              framing the discursive practice for interpreting Acts. However, one must
              also realize in this respect the conditionedness of the guild itself. On
              the one hand, those studying the New Testament and early Christian
              literature have largely belonged to Christian communities. Within those
              contexts Jewish background--particularly the Hebrew Bible has been accepted
              (indeed appropriated) as something suitable and safe. Genesis or Isaiah is
              much more comfortable as the underlying tradition for Acts than, say, Plato
              or Vergil" (12).

              "In this same way, the stress on the Hebrew Bible as the primary context for
              Lukan theological analysis involves an ideological commitment different from
              that associated with examining the relationship of Acts to ancient
              historiography, but they both relate in some way to larger ideological
              convictions situated in the discipline" (12f.).

              > However, your musing is rather incomplete. One should equally wonder if
              > there is a conscious or unconscious tendency for atheistic scholars to
              > have
              > a subjective bias *against* the Gospel narratives. One could-- and
              > should--
              > mirror your language for their unconscious biases. And so on, until
              > everyone is encompassed within the circle.

              Agreed

              > What I objected to was the
              > rather one-sided accusation of unconscious bias, as if this were *only* a
              > problem for NT scholars of faith.

              Fair enough

              > I don't care much for allegations of unconscious bias-- I know that
              > everyone is affected, not just people of faith. What I care more about is
              > that when one can show a direct line from demonstrable presumptions to
              > demonstrable conclusions.

              Agreed.

              > 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. 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. 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).

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

              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.

              Best regards (even when we disagree strongly),

              Ted
              Theodore J. Weeden., Sr.
              Fairport, NY
              Retired
              Ph.D., Claremont Graduate University
            • Tony Buglass
              IN a discussion with Brian Trafford, Ted wrote: (Mark s) first hearers would certainly not know the ending, and since there was no narrative Gospel prior to
              Message 6 of 12 , Jul 20, 2006
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                IN a discussion with Brian Trafford, Ted wrote:
                (Mark's) first hearers would certainly not know the ending, and since there was no
                narrative Gospel prior to Mark, and the other narrative Gospels had,
                consequently not been written, the hearers could not have filled in
                the narrative gaps with information from the later canonicals as we do.

                I agree that Mark was the first narrative gospel, so clearly the first hearers would not have known the story as it unfolded. But can we assume complete ignorance? The shape of the kerygma in cited traditions (1 Cor.15:3f, Phil.2:6f, etc) indiates the barest bones of the story of one who lived, was crucified and raised/exalted. As you say elsewhere, Acts owes a certain amount of the influence of Thucydides, and the common structure of the speeches and sermons suggests Lukan exposition of his understanding of the early kerygma. If this was the message preached throughout the mission area, we could reasonably expect folk already in Christian assemblies to know something of the story. It is also worth asking whether the work done by form critics in identifying pericopes with sitzen-in-leben meant that these stories were in circulation before Mark & co, and may well have been more widely known. I suggest that if Mark is as late as you suggest, that increases the possibility of wider circulation of traditional and narrative material. To quote Jimmy Dunn, "... (it is not likely) that Paul's churches would remain ignorant of the historical Jesus until they got Mark." (Jesus Remembered, p.187).

                The question really is the degree of that ignorance, and how much Mark brought to them which was new.

                Cheers,
                Rev Tony Buglass
                Superintendent Minister
                Upper Calder Methodist Circuit



                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • Theodore Weeden
                ... Thank you, Tony, for raising the question with me. It provides me the opportunity for clarification, just before I leave for several days. What I had
                Message 7 of 12 , Jul 20, 2006
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                  Tony Buglass wrote on Thursday, July 20:



                  > IN a discussion with Brian Trafford, Ted wrote:
                  > (Mark's) first hearers would certainly not know the ending, and since
                  > there was no
                  > narrative Gospel prior to Mark, and the other narrative Gospels had,
                  > consequently not been written, the hearers could not have filled in
                  > the narrative gaps with information from the later canonicals as we do.
                  >
                  > I agree that Mark was the first narrative gospel, so clearly the first
                  > hearers would not have known the story as it unfolded. But can we assume
                  > complete ignorance? The shape of the kerygma in cited traditions (1
                  > Cor.15:3f, Phil.2:6f, etc) indiates the barest bones of the story of one
                  > who lived, was crucified and raised/exalted. As you say elsewhere, Acts
                  > owes a certain amount of the influence of Thucydides, and the common
                  > structure of the speeches and sermons suggests Lukan exposition of his
                  > understanding of the early kerygma. If this was the message preached
                  > throughout the mission area, we could reasonably expect folk already in
                  > Christian assemblies to know something of the story. It is also worth
                  > asking whether the work done by form critics in identifying pericopes with
                  > sitzen-in-leben meant that these stories were in circulation before Mark &
                  > co, and may well have been more widely known. I suggest that if Mark is
                  > as late as you suggest, that increases the possibility of wider
                  >
                  > The question really is the degree of that ignorance, and how much Mark
                  > brought to them which was new.

                  Thank you, Tony, for raising the question with me. It provides me the
                  opportunity for clarification, just before I leave for several days. What
                  I had particular reference to in presenting my position to Brian is that the
                  first hearers of Mark would not have known how the story turned out with
                  specific reference to the disciples, namely the Twelve, in their
                  relationship to Jesus. The Markan community, which I place at Caesarea
                  Philippi (which I have argued previously on XTalk), could well have known
                  the traditions you cite, along with such short stories identified by the
                  form critics, perhaps even the pre-Markan catenae as Achtemeier
                  reconstructs. But what the community would not have known is the passion
                  narrative, where the disciples are shown to have turned against Jesus by
                  betrayal, denial and flight, and thus exit the drama as apostates, unaware
                  that the resurrection had taken place --- if one takes seriously the fact
                  that the women at the tomb did not deliver the message of the tomb's young
                  man (16:8). The community would not have known of the empty-tomb story
                  itself, since, unless one accepts Crossan's Cross Gospel as a reality, Mark
                  created the empty-tomb story in opposition to the appearance tradition (see
                  my _Martk_). For Mark, as I pointed out to Brian, holds to a theology of
                  absence with respect to Jesus' appearance after his death until he appears
                  in glory (13:24-26) in Mark's eschatological Mecca, Galilee (14:28).

                  Likewise, the Markan community would not have known the Caesarea Philippi
                  incident and the rebuke episode, as well as not have known the disciples
                  contrarian resistance to suffering servant christology and discipleship, as
                  set forth in 9:31-37; 10:32-45. For these passages are all Markan
                  creations to denigrate the Twelve. As I point out my _Mark_, the Twelve in
                  the Markan story serve as authorities for Mark's opponents who held to a
                  triumphalist christology and discipleship. His opponents could well have
                  had shared with the community the parable of the sower and its
                  interpretation (see my _Mark_), and the pre-Markan miracle catenae (whose
                  eucharistic implications Mark opposes with his Last Supper account: see
                  Achtemeier and his articles on the pre-Markan miracle catenae in _JBL_ early
                  1970's; I do not have the exact reference to give you now). The call
                  narratives (1:16-20 and 3:13-19) could also have been part of the arsenal of
                  Mark's opponents used against Mark. In other words, the community could
                  have heard at one time or another most of the stories Mark presents from
                  Jesus' baptism through the feeding of the four thousand. But the community
                  in my judgment would not have heard them as a part of a continuous narrative
                  or in the order in which Mark presents them until the community heard the
                  first oral performance of the Gospel as Mark constructed it. Even if they
                  knew most or many of those stories, the community would unlikely have been
                  exposed previously to the Twelve's denseness and imperceptiveness in those
                  early chapters of Mark's parabolic drama, for those narrative touches (e.g.,
                  4:13; 8:17-21) are Markan creations in the service of his polemic against
                  his opponents' authorities for their tradition, namely *the Twelve*. Thus,
                  my point, as stated to Brian: if, to out it differently here, we "read again
                  the Markan drama for *the first time*" (to paraphrase a title of one of
                  Marcus Borg's books), without benefit of the subsequent canonical Gospels
                  and their gap filling additions and alterations of the Markan presentation
                  of the disciples, I think the conclusion is almost inescapable: Mark has
                  produced, in the course of creating "an apology for the cross" (to drawn
                  upon the title of Gundry's Mark commentary), a vendetta against the Twelve.

                  I hope this clarifies my position. Thank you for your response. I will be
                  away, as it turns out now until late Sunday night, and thus will not be able
                  to reply to any further response you or others may want to make until
                  Monday.

                  Best wishes,

                  Ted
                  Theodore J. Weeden. Sr.
                  Fairport, NY
                  Retired
                  Ph.D., Claremont Graduate University
                • Theodore Weeden
                  Bob Schacht wrote on July 23: Bob, I apologize for the delay in my reply to your response to my post of 7/19, thus: [snip] ... Thank you. ... And that is the
                  Message 8 of 12 , Aug 6, 2006
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                    Bob Schacht wrote on July 23:

                    Bob, I apologize for the delay in my reply to your response to my post of
                    7/19, thus:

                    [snip]

                    > At 08:22 AM 7/19/2006, Ted Weeden wrote, among other things:
                    >>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.

                    Thank you.

                    > 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.

                    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. Orthodoxy's
                    focus was upon the Death Tradition (see Crossan's _Birth_ and my earlier
                    posts on the Life and Death Traditions) and its emphasis on sacrificial
                    atonement. I would suggest that Gospels such as Q, Thomas, and Mary were
                    rejected by orthodoxy because they did not advocate or support orthodox
                    hegemony. 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. As far as I can
                    tell, where the issue regarding an early Christian document's historical
                    veracity became a concern in the early church, historical truth of a
                    document's contents, when and if such veracity became an issue, was
                    vouchsafed via its imputed authority of a claimed apostolic witness (or a
                    purported associate of an apostlic witness, as in the case of the authors of
                    Mark and Luke-Acts), or the authoritative witness of revered oral tradition
                    of a church, such as Rome, Caesarea, Ephesus, etc.

                    [snip]

                    >> 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 do not disagree. And that intolerance dressed in whatever language needs
                    to be addressed and redressed, whether the intolerance is expressed by
                    conservative or liberal scholars.

                    >> 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 am arguing for the raising the question of canon and having a serious
                    debate, in view of early Christian literature excluded from the canon (such
                    as the Gospel of Q, the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary), as to
                    whether the canon should have ever been closed. By the way, I find it
                    regrettable, with respect to the Old Testament canon, that the so-called
                    Apocrypha texts were removed from that canon by Protestant reformers, to say
                    nothing about some of the Pseudoepigraphal texts which were never included
                    in that canon. (There is some evidence to suggest that the Qumran community
                    may have had an open canon: see James Sanders' article, "Canon," in _ABC_,
                    I). With respect to the limitation of the New Testament canon, let me cite
                    for example the exclusion of early Christian documents (e.g., Q and Thomas)
                    advocating the Life Tradition, in contrast to the Death Tradition and its
                    sacrifical atonement, a tradition which holds pervasive sway over the entire
                    New Testament canon.

                    Now the Death tradition and its sacrificial atonement may be very important
                    for the faith of some Christians and their interpretation of the salvific,
                    redemptive meaning and purpose of Jesus' death. But there are others,
                    including myself, that prefer the Life Tradition with its emphasos on Jesus'
                    vision of the kingdom of God and life with the kingdom, a tradition which
                    does not place the emphasis of personal redemption and atonement, restored
                    oneness with God, on Jesus dying sacrifcially for *our sins*. (I do not
                    find any credible evidence that Jesus saw himself as such a divine
                    instrument). In this respect I find much more "salvific" and "redemptive,"
                    and in my judgment closer to the view, vision and purpose of the historical
                    Jesus, the perspective of the Gospel of Mary, which places the emphasis on
                    turning inward to recover the inner son of man or true human person (to use
                    Karen King's terminology), the true, divinely gifted self, and then with
                    that recovery experiencing renewed oneness with God, with the historical
                    Jesus of the Life Tradition as an emplification of a model and guide of what
                    such a recovery of the true self can lead to. For this reason, I am far
                    more attracted to the Gospel of Mary than the Gospel of John, which, as I
                    now see it, polemicized against the "atonement" (at-onement) theology of the
                    Gospel of Mary. Yet, let me hasten to add, the Gospel of Mary espouses
                    cosmological/ontological views which are also problematic for me, just as
                    the apocalytic cosmology of much of the New Testament is problematic for me.

                    I am not suggesting that we do away with the canon. There are documents in
                    the New Testament canon that I wish were not included, the Book of
                    Revelation being a prime example. But, as much as I have objections to it,
                    its apocalyptic theology and the application of its apocalyptic scenario to
                    any given world crisis, I need to hear and understand that theology at times
                    to appreciate how and why Christian fundamentalists place such stock in it,
                    as well as "to afflict the comfort" of my own theological position, in order
                    to keep me honest.

                    > 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.

                    Thank you.

                    Ted
                    Theodore J. Weeden, Sr.
                    Fairport, NY
                    Retired
                    Ph.D., Claremont Graduate University
                  • Robert Griffin
                    Dear Dr. Weeden, I write as an American Evangelical Christian with a fascination with the Nestorian/Assyrian Church of the East, I have two questions to pose,
                    Message 9 of 12 , Aug 16, 2006
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                      Dear Dr. Weeden,

                      I write as an American Evangelical Christian with a fascination with
                      the Nestorian/Assyrian Church of the East,

                      I have two questions to pose, which if you feel appropriate, I can
                      post to the list.

                      The first question has to do with the following statement by Jesus in
                      the Gospel of Thomas:
                      'Split the wood and you will find me, lift the rock and I am there'
                      (which may be actually in reverse order). This, it seems to me, is
                      the most 'theological' of the statements in the Gospel of Thomas, and
                      I wonder how it is taken by most scholars in the field.

                      The second question has to do with a method to which I refer in
                      regards to HJ studies. In 'The Autobiography of a Yogi' by
                      Parmahansa Yogananda, Yogananda refers to an incident which
                      purportedly occurred prior to his birth. His parents are supposed to
                      have seen and interacted with the man who was to become both their
                      and his guru, when the guru was physically over one hundred miles
                      away. I've heard people refer to this as bi-location. For my part,
                      at least in regards to non-Hindus and non-New Agers, how the student
                      or scholar deals with Yogananda's account gives a fairly good
                      indication of how he/she will deal with the accounts of Jesus of
                      Nazareth. The account is chosen because for most westerners Yogananda
                      is at most mildly interesting, and thus issues of whether an abnormal
                      event occurred or not, or why it was recorded, are merely indicators
                      of the perspective of the explorer/student. So, the question--What
                      do you make of this method?

                      Be Well,
                      Bob Griffin

                      PS My apologies if I'm intruding on your discussion
                    • Theodore Weeden
                      Robert, I thought you sent me this inquiry off-list some time ago and I responded to it. Is that not the case? Are you presenting it here to enlicit a wider
                      Message 10 of 12 , Sep 15, 2006
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                        Robert,

                        I thought you sent me this inquiry off-list some time ago and I responded to
                        it. Is that not the case? Are you presenting it here to enlicit a wider
                        response from other list members? If so, fine.

                        Ted Weeden

                        ----- Original Message -----
                        From: "Robert Griffin" <muggleorsquib@...>
                        To: <crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com>
                        Sent: Wednesday, August 16, 2006 9:37 PM
                        Subject: Ted's reply Re: [XTalk] Methodological Presupposition re Gospel
                        Accounts


                        Dear Dr. Weeden,

                        I write as an American Evangelical Christian with a fascination with
                        the Nestorian/Assyrian Church of the East,

                        I have two questions to pose, which if you feel appropriate, I can
                        post to the list.

                        The first question has to do with the following statement by Jesus in
                        the Gospel of Thomas:
                        'Split the wood and you will find me, lift the rock and I am there'
                        (which may be actually in reverse order). This, it seems to me, is
                        the most 'theological' of the statements in the Gospel of Thomas, and
                        I wonder how it is taken by most scholars in the field.

                        The second question has to do with a method to which I refer in
                        regards to HJ studies. In 'The Autobiography of a Yogi' by
                        Parmahansa Yogananda, Yogananda refers to an incident which
                        purportedly occurred prior to his birth. His parents are supposed to
                        have seen and interacted with the man who was to become both their
                        and his guru, when the guru was physically over one hundred miles
                        away. I've heard people refer to this as bi-location. For my part,
                        at least in regards to non-Hindus and non-New Agers, how the student
                        or scholar deals with Yogananda's account gives a fairly good
                        indication of how he/she will deal with the accounts of Jesus of
                        Nazareth. The account is chosen because for most westerners Yogananda
                        is at most mildly interesting, and thus issues of whether an abnormal
                        event occurred or not, or why it was recorded, are merely indicators
                        of the perspective of the explorer/student. So, the question--What
                        do you make of this method?

                        Be Well,
                        Bob Griffin

                        PS My apologies if I'm intruding on your discussion
                      • Jeffrey B. Gibson
                        ... Actually, it was sent in to the list some time ago. But I has accidentally overlooked it in the pending tray and only discovered it yesterday as something
                        Message 11 of 12 , Sep 16, 2006
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                          Theodore Weeden wrote:

                          > Robert,
                          >
                          > I thought you sent me this inquiry off-list some time ago and I responded to
                          > it. Is that not the case? Are you presenting it here to enlicit a wider
                          > response from other list members? If so, fine.
                          >

                          Actually, it was sent in to the list some time ago. But I has accidentally
                          overlooked it in the pending tray and only discovered it yesterday as something
                          still waiting to be approved.

                          Jeffrey
                          --
                          Jeffrey B. Gibson, D.Phil. (Oxon)
                          1500 W. Pratt Blvd.
                          Chicago, Illinois
                          e-mail jgibson000@...
                        • Robert Griffin
                          ... responded to ... wider ... Ted, When my first attempt to email you failed, I sent the message (without appropriate editting) to the list. When it also
                          Message 12 of 12 , Sep 18, 2006
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                            --- In crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com, "Theodore Weeden" <Tweeden@...>
                            wrote:
                            >
                            > Robert,
                            >
                            > I thought you sent me this inquiry off-list some time ago and I
                            responded to
                            > it. Is that not the case? Are you presenting it here to enlicit a
                            wider
                            > response from other list members? If so, fine.
                            >
                            > Ted Weeden
                            >
                            Ted,

                            When my first attempt to email you failed, I sent the message
                            (without appropriate editting) to the list. When it also failed to
                            appear on the list, I stsrted looking for a more successful way of
                            emailing you. As a result, you received my email LONG before my prior
                            post appeared.

                            These remain topics of interest to me, so I am definitely interested
                            in the response of other list members.

                            In an expansion on the question of the passage in Gospel of Thomas,
                            what is the general opinion regarding the historical value of the
                            passage? Is this passage believed to be a creation of the early
                            church, of the early Gnostics, or ? As far as I am aware, it shows
                            the highest Christology of any of the known Gnostic documents,
                            approaching a Johanine Christology.

                            Be Well,
                            Bob Griffin
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