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  • Bob Schacht
    The conversation below originated on the GTH list, but it s import transcends thomasine interests in ways quite relevant to this list, which has been somewhat
    Message 1 of 5 , Nov 10, 2009
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      The conversation below originated on the GTH list, but it's import
      transcends thomasine interests in ways quite relevant to this list,
      which has been somewhat quiet lately.

      The occasion for my comment there was in response to several
      interviews conducted with Stevan Davies, who was quite active on this
      list in its formative years (1996-1998), often with respect to his
      book, Jesus the Healer, which I debated with him extensively in those
      years. Anyway, the present occasion is prompted by Mike Grondin's
      comment, as follows:

      >Chris Skinner continues his fine series of interviews with Thomas
      >scholars by posting a 3-part interview with Stevan Davies, who of
      >course needs no introduction to gthomas subscribers. The
      >third part hasn't appeared yet, but I didn't want to wait to notify
      >subscribers of this ongoing series, so far posted as follows:
      >
      ><http://pejeiesous.com/2009/11/08/interview-with-stevan-davies-part-i/>http://pejeiesous.com/2009/11/08/interview-with-stevan-davies-part-i/
      >http://pejeiesous.com/2009/11/10/interview-with-stevan-davies-part-ii/

      For those who enjoy Stevan's acerbic wit and keen insights, you will
      not be disappointed.
      Here is my response to some of what Stevan wrote:

      >Date: Tue, 10 Nov 2009 23:11:17 -0700
      >To: gthomas@yahoogroups.com
      >From: Bob Schacht <bobschacht@...>
      >Subject: Re: [GTh] Skinner's Interview with Davies
      >
      >At 04:12 PM 11/10/2009, Michael Grondin wrote:
      >>
      >>...As Chris notes, Steve is very generous in his response to questions,
      >>ranging far and wide with his typical keen senses of logic and humour.
      >>I was a little surprised to learn that Steve now thinks far less of the
      >>Gospel of John than he apparently did when writing _Jesus the Healer_,
      >>but it's a pleasant surprise, since I felt that his position in that book
      >>re GJn wasn't really tenable. But in any case, an interview well worth
      >>reading, and thanks to Chris for doing the work to get it together.
      >>As usual, responses to Steve's comments are welcome here.
      >
      >Mike,
      >To take just one bite of a large apple, Stevan wrote:
      >
      >>...What we appear to have in Thomas is a collection of stuff of
      >>diverse sorts that lacks a fully coherent ideology that was
      >>compiled by people who themselves probably didn't think they fully
      >>understood it (saying 1). ...
      >
      >Stevan writes elsewhere that the list genre should by all odds be
      >early, and I think he is right. So I would re-write his sentence above as
      >"What we appear to have in Thomas is a collection of stuff of
      >diverse sorts that lacks a fully coherent narrative that was
      >compiled by people who themselves probably didn't think they fully
      >understood it (saying 1). "
      >
      >Despite some attempts here to impose an order on the text of Thomas
      >according to the number of characters that fit neatly onto a page
      >(of papyrus, I assume), I think Stevan is probably right that the
      >only structure evident in the list of sayings is that there seems to
      >be more word association among the later sayings in the list than
      >earlier (so I am intrigued by his suggestion that the list came
      >about has a haphazard record of sayings people could remember when a
      >scribe was handy). There is room for some important text-critical work here.
      >
      >But I mainly want to emphasize here the importance of narrative on
      >the text, and on the ideological consequences. Lacking a narrative
      >structure (except for the beginning and end), the sayings in GTH are
      >free to roam. Q is a list, but it is a partly narrativized list, so
      >the ideology in it is more important. That is, sayings that do not
      >conform to the (somewhat minimal) narrative are less likely to be included.
      >
      >But with Mark, we have a full-blown narrative. And that forces Mark
      >to make decisions that list-makers are not bothered with: In order
      >to make his narrative coherent, he needs to make choices among his
      >material, probably discarding material that doesn't fit, and perhaps
      >inventing some material to cover up gaps in his narrative. And the
      >more coherent the narrative, the more it has a Point of View-- i.e.,
      >an ideology. And the more a Gospel has a Point of View, the more
      >likely there will be opposing Points of View.
      >
      >GJohn, as usual, poses problems for any scheme of literary
      >development of the Gospels. I reject the argument of the Jesus
      >Seminar to marginalize GJohn because it differs so much from the
      >Synoptic gospels. GJohn seems to me, more than the other gospels, a
      >layered document, with what seems to me an early layer consisting of
      >a narrative based on the "Signs Gospel," and a later layer that
      >interleaves a bunch of sermons elaborating on the Gospel's Point of
      >View. But I digress.
      >
      >The main take-away for me from Stevan's first two interviews is the
      >importance of narrative in the literary development of Q and the
      >"Gospels," and in their relative dating.
      >
      >Bob Schacht, Ph.D.
      >Northern Arizona University

      To crawl out even further on this limb, let me add this:
      If the key note of literary development of the Gospels was from Lists
      to Narratives, is there a third stage?

      I suggest, yes! And the third stage is (drum roll, please):
      *meta-narrative.* The narrative stage is somewhat biographical, or
      perhaps hagiographic-- i.e., the focus of the narrative is on the
      life and death of Jesus.

      By "meta-narrative," I mean comments by the Gospeler attempting to
      explain the significance of the narrative.

      In GMark, there is meta-narrative in 1:1-2 at the beginning, and the
      second sentence of the Shorter Ending, or vss. 16:19-20 of the longer
      ending, or the verses in Note t of the NRSV

      In GJohn, however, the Gospel opens with 18 verses of meta-narrative
      (1:1-18), and concludes with at least 21:24-25 and perhaps much more.
      For example, all the "sermons" in GJohn might be considered part of
      this meta-narrative (mainly chapters 14-17)

      Thus, the distinguishing feature of GJohn that may make it late is
      not its theology, but the presence of so much meta-narrative.
      However, John is a multi-layered document. The "Signs Gospel" within
      GJohn, and much else of its narrative, may be much earlier.

      What I offer here is not a well-developed thesis, but the sketch of a
      few ideas inspired by Stevan's comments in response to Chris's
      questions, linked above.

      Bob Schacht, Ph.D.
      Northern Arizona University


      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Bob Schacht
      I think Stevan meant this to go at least to GTh, and perhaps also ... Good! Thanks for your reply. I had written:(previous correspondence is in italics) ... It
      Message 2 of 5 , Nov 11, 2009
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        I think Stevan meant this to go at least to GTh, and perhaps also
        XTalk, where I cross-posted my reply. He responded:

        >Date: Wed, 11 Nov 2009 16:27:14 -0000
        >From: "stevandavies" <stevandavies@...>
        >To: Bob Schacht <Bobschacht@...>
        >Subject: Re: [GTh] Skinner's Interview with Davies
        >Sender: notify@yahoogroups.com
        >
        >Hi folks
        >
        >I haven't done this sort of discussion for years, but here we go again.

        Good! Thanks for your reply.
        I had written:(previous correspondence is in italics)

        >Mike,
        >To take just one bite of a large apple, Stevan wrote:
        >
        > >...What we appear to have in Thomas is a collection of stuff of
        > >diverse sorts that lacks a fully coherent ideology that was compiled
        > >by people who themselves probably didn't think they fully understood
        > >it (saying 1). ...
        >
        >Stevan writes elsewhere that the list genre should by all odds be
        >early, and I think he is right. So I would re-write his sentence above as
        >"What we appear to have in Thomas is a collection of stuff of diverse
        >sorts that lacks a fully coherent narrative that was compiled by
        >people who themselves probably didn't think they fully understood it
        >(saying 1). "
        >
        >How does narrative become a synonym for ideology?

        It doesn't. My point was that I think that the word "narrative" in
        your statement makes more sense than "ideology," for reasons that I
        try to elucidate.

        > In my opinion people confronted with the sayings of Jesus early on
        > didn't know what to make of them.

        I agree.

        >Mark came up with the idea that to give them meaning they had to be
        >put into narrative context and so he did that. But what came first?
        >Did Mark have a desire to create an historical narrative so as to
        >denigrate the disciples (said denigration is an historical sort of
        >procedure) and the sayings were then brought in to supplement the
        >narrative, or was the idea of contextualizing the sayings first?
        >They aren't mutually exclusive, I guess.

        Our earliest witness, Paul, doesn't seem to care much what Jesus
        said, but instead emphasizes the central importance of the resurrection.

        Crossan and others may be right that a passion narrative may have
        been very early (he likes GPeter for this purpose), and that would
        provide a narrative context for Paul's emphasis on the resurrection.
        In fact, Paul's letters make more sense if a passion narrative
        already existed than the other way around. But I digress, because in
        the passion narrative, Jesus is more acclaimed for saying very
        little, than saying very much, according to the canonical Gospels.
        And Paul's silence about sayings in the context of the resurrection
        supports this conclusion.

        Actually, what I meant was that the most likely sequence of genre
        types begins with non-thematic sayings lists (GThomas) come before
        thematic groups of sayings lists (Q), followed by the narrative
        (Mark), as those interested in Jesus tried to make sense of his life.

        But now that you have jolted me into remembering the passion
        narrative issue, I think that the most credible sequence would start
        with bare bones information about what Jesus did, or what happened to
        Jesus (the Passion Narrative, Paul's emphasis on the centrality of
        the resurrection, and the Signs Gospel). But what these accounts of
        "deeds" lack is any explanatory context. Why would Pilate crucify
        Jesus? So now my thoughts are meandering in other directions.

        >But I mainly want to emphasize here the importance of narrative on
        >the text, and on the ideological consequences. Lacking a narrative
        >structure (except for the beginning and end), the sayings in GTH are
        >free to roam. Q is a list, but it is a partly narrativized list, so
        >the ideology in it is more important. That is, sayings that do not
        >conform to the (somewhat minimal) narrative are less likely to be included.
        >
        >Or did the narrative-makers start with sayings and then construct a
        >narrative out of them. Imagine somebody determined to write the
        >biography of Lao Tzu (whom sinologists nowadays seem to agree is a
        >wholly fictional character). They (i.e. I) have an idea that Lao Tzu
        >was a librarian who got sick of court life and rode an ox off to the
        >west but at the border was asked to give his wisdom so he produced
        >the Tao Te Ching. So there's your life story of Lao Tzu in one
        >sentence and that's all the author knew, which is probably about as
        >much as Mark knew about Jesus' life story.

        But if that is all Lao Tzu did, why bother? Who cares?
        I am thinking now that the start has to be some remarkable event(s).
        And in our case, that seems to be the crucifixion and resurrection,
        and then the Signs.

        >I want to write a whole book and this is all I have, thinks Mark, so
        >I take the Tao Te Ching and start writing about the circumstances
        >under which Lao Tzu said his sayings. I can indeed pick the ones I
        >like, pick ones that strike me as having some sort of event
        >connected to them, throw out ones I can't use. I can make the
        >sayings mean what I think they mean.

        If what you're doing is writing a novel, that makes some sense. But
        that doesn't seem to be the market Mark has in mind. His purpose
        doesn't seem to be entertainment.

        >But with Mark, we have a full-blown narrative. And that forces Mark
        >to make decisions that list-makers are not bothered with: In order to
        >make his narrative coherent, he needs to make choices among his
        >material, probably discarding material that doesn't fit, and perhaps
        >inventing some material to cover up gaps in his narrative. And the
        >more coherent the narrative, the more it has a Point of View-- i.e.,
        >an ideology. And the more a Gospel has a Point of View, the more
        >likely there will be opposing Points of View.
        >
        >Yes. But the Gospel of Mark is written to be an opposing point of
        >view to that of the disciples and family.

        Why should anyone care about that? IOW, who is Mark's audience, and
        what matters to them?

        >This was all to be in my book on the Gospel of Mark that I was going
        >to write years ago but it turned out that it was already written in
        >"Mark: Traditions in Conflict" by Ted Weeden. So Mark is an opposing
        >view to disciples and then Mt and Lk come along to be opposing views to Mark. S

        Sounds OK to me-- but we digress.

        >It's hard to have opposing views to Thomas because first you have to
        >create some sort of point of view for Thomas and then you have to
        >oppose the one you created. This is what the first generation of
        >Thomas scholars did, though. "Thomas is Gnostic!" "Gnostic is terrible!"

        Exactly. I agree. Although ISTM GThomas got tagged with some heresies
        early on (by Ignatius?) For the heresiologists, IIRC, all you had to
        have was one bone-headed statement, and that could be grounds for
        tossing out the whole thing, coherent or not.

        >GJohn, as usual, poses problems for any scheme of literary
        >development of the Gospels. I reject the argument of the Jesus
        >Seminar to marginalize GJohn because it differs so much from the
        >Synoptic gospels. GJohn seems to me, more than the other gospels, a
        >layered document, with what seems to me an early layer consisting of
        >a narrative based on the "Signs Gospel," and a later layer that
        >interleaves a bunch of sermons elaborating on the Gospel's Point of
        >View. But I digress.
        >
        >I think GJohn is marginalized because however early it or its
        >subsets might be, it nevertheless is fiction and so for historical
        >Jesus questing isn't useful.

        We disagree about that.

        >The main take-away for me from Stevan's first two interviews is the
        >importance of narrative in the literary development of Q and the
        >"Gospels," and in their relative dating.
        >
        >I just cannot imagine what would motive someone to denarrativize the
        >synoptics into Thomas, although this is the dependence view held by
        >a great many.

        I agree.

        >Bob Schacht, Ph.D.
        >Northern Arizona University
        >
        >Darn. If you were still in HI I'd come to visit.

        Well, you had from August 2004 to August 2009 to do that! Ted Weeden
        visited me over there, and we had a jolly time arguing about
        Mark..Perhaps if I'd had the sense to tell you about that in advance...

        BTW, you were right about the Ahi Poke.

        Cheers,
        Bob


        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Gordon Raynal
        Hi Bob, With this conversation going on another list and what you have listed here presenting all manner of issues, I m just going to make a few points for
        Message 3 of 5 , Nov 13, 2009
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          Hi Bob,

          With this conversation going on another list and what you have listed
          here presenting all manner of issues, I'm just going to make a few
          points for conversation on the Xtalk list:

          1. wisdom orality and the move to literature.

          At the level of the spoken word each and every identifiable aphorism
          and/ or parable stands on its own. Wisdom speech is not didactic
          speech, it is rather speech that seeks to arouse, in one word,
          "wondering." With repeated use and in a secondary use wisdom language
          may become fodder for lessons, morals, belief affirmations, but that
          is entirely secondary to the very present tense nature of wisdom
          speech in living interactions. Wisdom language is about, in common
          parlance, "making sense" and "responding sensibly (wisely)." So, the
          real power of this kind of speech is always very present tense... for
          making sense and responding to what is going on wisely is "living
          stuff."
          If your grandchild is in the yard by the road and the ball rolls
          across the street and she's after it, yelling "look both ways before
          you cross the street" (a very important proverbial form of wisdom
          communication in the age of automated vehicles!), the aim of the
          speech is not first educational, but rather to get her to pay
          attention to the world around her so she can safely navigate that
          world and in this situation return to her play.

          Regarding Jesus' aphorisms and parables, whatever kind of literature
          we find them in: the few in Paul's letters, in sayings gospels, in
          narrative gospels, in the Didache, in other forms of writings, the
          real power of the speech is found not in terms of the later recorders
          various uses of the language, but in each saying.

          2. earliest collections of such speech.

          We obviously do not have tape recordings of Jesus spouting an
          aphorism or telling a parabolic story. Extant Thomas and Q give us
          access to forms of writings that list out aphorisms and parables.
          Both "extant" works suggest layers of writing and show forms of
          editing and elaboration of the aphorisms/ parables they contain.
          Looking at these works in relationship to our other sources we can
          find different early forms of gathering the speech to effectively
          communicate it onward. For instance, the Q Sermon is morphed and
          expanded by Matthew into the famed Sermon on the Mount and Luke's
          Sermon on the Plain. Likewise at the level of Q1 we can find a
          collection of sayings (Q1/ Luke 6:27-31) that provides the base for
          the Didache's opening "Way of Life." Work to form this kind literary
          gathering is based in "listing" (whether memory or written listing)
          and so is prior to the act of the creation of "sermon" and
          "teaching." This intellectual work is now cognitive in nature and
          the forms of communication produced are now intellectual in focus.
          Proclaimed sermon and core ethical (ethos) espousal change the nature
          of the present tense oral communication to the purposes of thinking
          and believing and behaving. Looking across all the sources we have
          we can see both the multiple ways this language came to be employed
          and find the different sorts of literary roots that were used. For
          example the Q Sermon very much owes to the story of Moses declaring
          the Law of God to the people of Israel and thus this takes us to
          Torah and the figure of Moses. Likewise the employ of "Two Ways"
          takes us to both Moses and Joshua and so folded into the creation of
          these literary forms is the treasure trove of Israelite Scripture.
          Something new is thus created and a new layer of the usage of the
          original spoken language comes into play.

          3. Thomas' "disorganization?"

          I find the idea that the assertion that Thomas' creators art leads to
          the conclusion that:
          >>
          >>> ...What we appear to have in Thomas is a collection of stuff of
          >>> diverse sorts that lacks a fully coherent ideology that was compiled
          >>> by people who themselves probably didn't think they fully understood
          >>> it (saying 1). ...

          This suggests that Thomas should have "a fully coherent ideology."
          Why? Says who? Why push that conclusion? Such a statement looks at
          the creation of this work from the vantage point of ideology...
          ideas... cognition. But as I have pointed out, wisdom speech is not
          first aimed at cognition, but at wondering, musing, paying attention,
          trying to point out sense, make sense, evoke sense making. That
          there are thematic links to the kinds of sense making issues very
          much suggests that the collector understood the sayings! Further,
          the pattern of "work" done to frame, edit, guide the reader's/
          hearer's response to the sayings is itself poetical in nature. To
          say the very least, not all literary creations are about "ideology"
          promulgation! The book of Psalms, for example, is a work that
          invites one to sing and pray. Thomas in its extant form is a
          meditative work. The supposed lack of coherence is an intellectual
          judgment that really doesn't fit what the work presents. "Free
          association," of course, is an important aspect to imaginative works
          of this sort. Likewise "guided association" is another aspect.
          Thomas allows for and makes for both. So ***far*** from concluding
          that the apparent randomness of the work suggests the creator "didn't
          get it," I will insist that such a literary form indeed "got" a very
          important use of the primary wisdom language. To force upon all
          human creative communicative produce the idea of "coherent ideology"
          is an extremely limited view of human creativity and the kinds of
          communication we produce.

          In closing... important to pay heed to the core nature of the kinds
          of human communication we find. Important to trace the different
          kinds of "play" that were introduced. All of this literature we have
          and the different kinds of communications that are in them are richly
          creative kinds of communication. I'd suggest that some real thought
          needs to be given to such as artistry and not just ideology when such
          literature as this is considered.

          Gordon Raynal
          Inman, SC



          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • E Bruce Brooks
          To: Crosstalk Cc: WSW, GPG In Response To: Gordon Raynal On: Wisdom Literature From: Bruce GORDON: If your grandchild is in the yard by the road and the ball
          Message 4 of 5 , Nov 13, 2009
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            To: Crosstalk
            Cc: WSW, GPG
            In Response To: Gordon Raynal
            On: Wisdom Literature
            From: Bruce

            GORDON: If your grandchild is in the yard by the road and the ball rolls
            across the street and she's after it, yelling "look both ways before
            you cross the street" (a very important proverbial form of wisdom
            communication in the age of automated vehicles!), the aim of the
            speech is not first educational, but rather to get her to pay
            attention to the world around her so she can safely navigate that
            world and in this situation return to her play.

            BRUCE: Not in a million years. You either grab her (the classic Mencius
            response), or if she's too far to reach, you scream "stop!"

            Proverbial sayings of the kind quoted are quite different: they amount to
            advice in advance, delivered in calm situations and in anticipation of events;
            they are not correctives applied in the middle of events.

            I would further distinguish gnomic sayings (another and perhaps distinct branch
            of "wisdom" literature), which are meant, not as immediate corrections, nor yet
            as prospective counsel on the ways of the world, but as what the Zen people
            call a kôan: a bit of language meant to be pondered, turned over and explored
            in the mind, until its implications have been thoroughly worked out. (Or, in
            extreme cases, until the mind recognizes the impossibility of doing so, and
            abandons its rational predilections altogether). This is how Confucius taught,
            and you can see him doing so(and praising students who respond as he intends)
            in the early chapters of the Analects, say LY 5 and 6, written by people who
            still remembered him. (His own maxims, written down after his death, and
            without any added narrative settings, are to be found in the core layer of that
            text, occupying much but not all of LY 4; see our book, The Original Analects,
            ad loc).

            There are also paradoxical sayings, which openly and not covertly present a
            contradiction or a conundrum. In short, it seems to me that "wisdom" alone is
            not an operatively effective category for analysis, and that a finer-grained
            typology might help the discussion.

            How many different genres of statement are represented in Greek Thomas? Are any
            additional types added if we consider Coptic Thomas? What is the range of
            statement types in Mencius 4? Is the roster enlarged if we add in Mencius 6? Is
            the range of statements in the Dau/Dv Jing wider after the Gwodyen cutoff point
            than before? Is it narrower? If narrower, to what types is this tail of the
            text reduced? Why might that have been?

            That sort of thing. I suggested something of the sort in the discussion of
            Klyne Snodgrass's book on the Parables, an SBL or two ago, and perhaps there is
            something in it.

            Respectfully recommended,

            Bruce

            E Bruce Brooks
            Warring States Project
            University of Massachusetts at Amherst
          • Gordon Raynal
            Hi Bruce, ... Those would be wisdom responses, as well! ... Your note provides an understanding of wisdom that is centrally cognitively focused in nature, both
            Message 5 of 5 , Nov 13, 2009
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              Hi Bruce,

              On Nov 13, 2009, at 4:28 PM, E Bruce Brooks wrote:

              > To: Crosstalk
              > Cc: WSW, GPG
              > In Response To: Gordon Raynal
              > On: Wisdom Literature
              > From: Bruce
              >
              > GORDON: If your grandchild is in the yard by the road and the ball
              > rolls
              > across the street and she's after it, yelling "look both ways before
              > you cross the street" (a very important proverbial form of wisdom
              > communication in the age of automated vehicles!), the aim of the
              > speech is not first educational, but rather to get her to pay
              > attention to the world around her so she can safely navigate that
              > world and in this situation return to her play.
              >
              > BRUCE: Not in a million years. You either grab her (the classic
              > Mencius
              > response), or if she's too far to reach, you scream "stop!"

              Those would be wisdom responses, as well!
              >
              > Proverbial sayings of the kind quoted are quite different: they
              > amount to
              > advice in advance, delivered in calm situations and in anticipation
              > of events;
              > they are not correctives applied in the middle of events.

              Your note provides an understanding of wisdom that is centrally
              cognitively focused in nature, both in terms of common and parabolic
              wisdom. Another route to understand this form of communication is
              not in terms of advice or intellectual fodder, but in terms of sense
              arousing communication that evokes a whole self response... arousing
              attention to what the senses are taking in, the emotional responses,
              the cognition that arouses from the former and the bodily and
              behavioral responses. Common forms of wisdom communication, in such
              an understanding, point out some of the ordinary and usual aspects of
              "happenings" and such as aphorisms and some parables point out the
              extra-ordinary/ non-ordinary qualities of "happenings." In this
              understanding of wisdom, when one is with company, then a form of
              bantering can arise that involves the participants in "making
              sense" (to use the common parlance) of the circumstances that are
              going on. Likewise, within oneself one can "go a-musing" by such
              language, which yes can include evaluations and problem solving
              reflections, but may also simply lead to poetical/ artistic kinds of
              responses. This is not to deny cognitive evaluative and problem
              solving uses of this sort of speech. Those, too, are uses of the
              speech. Often the "present tense primacy" of what speech can evoke
              gets overlooked and hence my focus in this way.

              Gordon Raynal
              Inman, SC
              >
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