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[XTalk] Re: Reynolds Price and Jesus at 2000

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  • Robert M Schacht
    On Fri, 03 Dec 1999 22:23:23 -0500 Brian Tucker ... No. ... Reynolds Price s piece is heavily influenced by two things: His task as a
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 4, 1999
      On Fri, 03 Dec 1999 22:23:23 -0500 Brian Tucker <jbtucker@...>
      writes:
      > Greetings
      >
      > I have received a number of emails from people this week asking my
      > opinion on the article by Reynolds Price in Time magazine. Does anyone
      > know his background?

      No.

      > Second, I would like some opinions from the list
      > that I may share with my class tomorrow, concerning his article. (Time
      > Dec. 6, 1999, 84-94)
      >

      Reynolds Price's piece is heavily influenced by two things: His task as a
      storyteller, and his own visionary experience (which he summarizes near
      the end of the article.) These are not bad things, but they are important
      to understand his novellette re-telling of incidents from the Gospels.

      Given his task as a storyteller, he must perforce look at the
      possibilities in the texts, not their impossibilities. That is, unless he
      is to remake the story out of whole cloth, he must base it on
      possibilities in the Gospels and in related stories of the first
      centuries C.E. Thus, he will take and use the gray and even black
      material in The Five Gospels and The Acts of Jesus if he needs it to
      round out a story line. Retelling the story based only on the strictest
      contemporary standards of historical "fact" would leave him with very
      little to work with.

      His task as a writer also allow-- even demand-- that he endow his cameos
      with a sense of mystery. Mystery is what creates and sustains interest in
      a story. Even the most factual account must contain mystery-- if only in
      the form of gaps in the narrative for which there is no reliable
      evidence. So for his task as a writer he must use both mystery and mood.

      I write the above not to trash his article in Time, but to defend his use
      of poetic license. This does not mean that I agree with his novelization
      but that, given his task, it would be difficult for him to do otherwise.

      His own personal experiences reinforce his writer's need to look at the
      possibilities in the text that go beyond mere historical literalism. In
      this regard, he is probably more in the tradition of Raymond Brown, L. T.
      Johnson, Tom Wright or Ben Witherington than J.D.Crossan or Burton Mack.

      In other words, in this sample from Time magazine, Reynolds Price shows
      himself less as a cautious critical scholar then as a scholarly novelist.

      IMHO.

      Bob


      > Thanks
      > Brian Tucker
      > Riverview, MI
      > jbtucker@...
      >
      >
      >
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    • Sukie Curtis
      I am writing very quickly (on borrowed sermon time) in response to Brian Tucker r s request and Bob Schacht s response. ... I d say that calling him a
      Message 2 of 2 , Dec 4, 1999
        I am writing very quickly (on borrowed sermon time) in response to Brian
        Tucker'r s request and Bob Schacht's response.
        >
        > On Fri, 03 Dec 1999 22:23:23 -0500 Brian Tucker <jbtucker@...>
        > writes:
        > > Greetings
        > >
        > > I have received a number of emails from people this week asking my
        > > opinion on the article by Reynolds Price in Time magazine. Does anyone
        > > know his background?
        >
        > No.
        >
        > > Second, I would like some opinions from the list
        > > that I may share with my class tomorrow, concerning his article. (Time
        > > Dec. 6, 1999, 84-94)
        > >
        >
        > Reynolds Price's piece is heavily influenced by two things: His task as a
        > storyteller, and his own visionary experience (which he summarizes near
        > the end of the article.) These are not bad things, but they are important
        > to understand his novellette re-telling of incidents from the Gospels.
        >
        > Given his task as a storyteller, he must perforce look at the
        > possibilities in the texts, not their impossibilities. That is, unless he
        > is to remake the story out of whole cloth, he must base it on
        > possibilities in the Gospels and in related stories of the first
        > centuries C.E. Thus, he will take and use the gray and even black
        > material in The Five Gospels and The Acts of Jesus if he needs it to
        > round out a story line. Retelling the story based only on the strictest
        > contemporary standards of historical "fact" would leave him with very
        > little to work with.
        >
        > His task as a writer also allow-- even demand-- that he endow his cameos
        > with a sense of mystery. Mystery is what creates and sustains interest in
        > a story. Even the most factual account must contain mystery-- if only in
        > the form of gaps in the narrative for which there is no reliable
        > evidence. So for his task as a writer he must use both mystery and mood.
        >
        > I write the above not to trash his article in Time, but to defend his use
        > of poetic license. This does not mean that I agree with his novelization
        > but that, given his task, it would be difficult for him to do otherwise.
        >
        > His own personal experiences reinforce his writer's need to look at the
        > possibilities in the text that go beyond mere historical literalism. In
        > this regard, he is probably more in the tradition of Raymond Brown, L. T.
        > Johnson, Tom Wright or Ben Witherington than J.D.Crossan or Burton Mack.
        >
        > In other words, in this sample from Time magazine, Reynolds Price shows
        > himself less as a cautious critical scholar then as a scholarly novelist.
        >
        > IMHO.
        >
        > Bob

        I'd say that calling him a "scholarly novelist" is over-generous. He
        mentions scholarship in the article, but I don't see any evidence that he
        has read taken much of it seriously. A novelist, yes, and one with a
        determinative personal experience, yes, as Bob says. But I don't buy that
        the only option for a novelist interacting with historical Jesus scholarship
        is tell the same old stories more or less the same old way, but with mystery
        and mood. I found the article basically worthless, or even worse than
        worthless--as he made pretenses to taking recent discoveries and recent
        scholarship seriously, but, in my opinion, with very poor results.

        This too, of course, IMHO.

        Sukie Curtis
        Cumberland Foreside, Maine



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