Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

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

Expand Messages
  • 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 1 of 12 , Aug 6, 2006
    • 0 Attachment
      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 2 of 12 , Aug 16, 2006
      • 0 Attachment
        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 3 of 12 , Sep 15, 2006
        • 0 Attachment
          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 4 of 12 , Sep 16, 2006
          • 0 Attachment
            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 5 of 12 , Sep 18, 2006
            • 0 Attachment
              --- 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
            Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.