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[XTalk] Re: Inductivism as inappropriate method

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  • Robert M Schacht
    On Thu, 30 Dec 1999 14:56:49 -0800 Brian Tucker ... Don t you need the plural (data) here? Generalization works best when it is based on a large sample of
    Message 1 of 3 , Dec 31, 1999
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      On Thu, 30 Dec 1999 14:56:49 -0800 "Brian Tucker"
      <jbtucker@...> writes:
      > The inductive approach to HJ says we must begin with individual datum
      > and work our way up to generalizations.

      Don't you need the plural (data) here? Generalization works best when it
      is based on a large sample of similar cases.

      > In HJ research it seems
      > inappropriate to look at individual pericopes or sayings and attempt
      to
      > establish what is authentic and what is not by relying on certain
      > criteria. The underlying assumption is that there is a core that we
      can
      > find and then proceed to develop a theory about what HJ said or did.
      >
      > Isn't this methodology doomed to fail because of the impossibility of
      > determining which individual sayings or deeds are authentic in
      > isolation from one's larger view about HJ?
      >

      The only thing that is "doomed to fail" is inductive purity. The only
      purely inductive strategy that will work as such is to avoid the task of
      sifting the sayings for authenticity, and accept the entire corpus of
      sayings attributed to Jesus in, say, the four canonical gospels, as
      ipsissima verba. Once you begin the search for authenticity, you must
      abandon pure inductivism. But it is not necessarily the case that "one's
      larger view about HJ" drives the search, even though it sometimes seems
      like that is what happens. And this is why Crossan wants us to focus on
      *methodology.* If we can agree on that, then it, and not preconceptions
      about the HJ, will be in the driver's seat.

      > Facts cannot be settled in isolation from broader theories. (i.e.
      > multiple attestation criteria is based on one's view of Q (if Q ever
      > existed); dissimilarity is impacted by one's view of first-century
      > Judaism(s).)
      >

      Here you seem to be trying to turn "criteria" such as those identified by
      Meier (and widely used by others) into "theories." Or do you see these
      criteria as embedded in different theories? If so, please tell us more
      about these theories. "Criteria" by themselves do not constitute
      theories, according to Crossan, and I agree with that.

      > Therefore, shouldn't simple inductivism be rejected in reconstructing
      HJ?
      >

      Simple inductivism, yes. But inductive processes still merit a place in
      one's overall strategy.

      Crossan outlines the research process we should be engaged in as follows
      (references are to The Birth of Christianity):

      1. Method (p. 143). According to Crossan, this must precede anything
      else. Crossan bewails the lack of attention to method. Crossan writes
      that his The Historical Jesus (1991) was intended to "inaugurate" a
      full-blown debate on methodology among his peers, but he complains in
      The Birth of Christianity (1998) that "There is still no serious
      discussion of methodology in historical Jesus research" (p. 139). I
      suspect that most scholars are content to suppose that there is something
      called "the methods of critical scholarship," and that that, whatever it
      is (i.e., whatever passed for critical scholarship when you were in
      graduate school) should suffice. For example, in The Five Gospels (1993),
      the authors take refuge in "the safeguards offered by the historical
      methodologies practiced by all responsible scholars" (p. 5, without
      enumeration). However, in the following pages (pp. 5-35), the authors of
      The Five Gospels list around 50 "rules of evidence," etc. (identified in
      red bulleted text) that seem intended to take the place of a formal
      methodology. The "rules of written evidence," for example, were
      "formulated and adopted ... to guide the assessment of gospel traditions"
      by the Jesus Seminar (p. 16). Later (p.34), T5G noted that

      "The Fellows of the Seminar are critical scholars. To be a *critical*
      scholar means to make empirical, factual evidence-- evidence open to
      confirmation by independent, neutral observers-- the controling factor in
      historical judgments. ... Critical scholars adopt the principle of
      methodological skepticism: accept only what passes the rigorous test of
      the rules of evidence."

      Since Crossan was intimately involved in this project, and since he
      doesn't mention this work in The Birth of Christianity, the rules of
      evidence formulated by his colleagues for that project evidently are not
      sufficient in his view. In fact, neither The Five Gospels, the Jesus
      Seminar, nor Robert Funk appear in the indexes of this book (does this
      strike anyone else as odd?)

      2. Inventory (p.143). This is the task of identifying the corpus that the
      research will use. For example, two years ago today on the old
      CrossTalk, Stevan Davies and I decided to accept the inventory of all
      "red" and "pink" sayings identified in The Five Gospels as the starting
      point of an analysis of that corpus. (This dialogue lasted through
      January 1998). We were able to agree on the "inventory" at the outset.
      This step is often ignored on CrossTalk, which sometimes confuses the
      debate.

      3. Interpretation (p.143) This seems like the point at which inductive
      processes could take over; but Crossan takes a different course, which
      must be left for another time. Most CrossTalk messages jump to this stage
      without dealing with methodological and inventory issues first.

      Meanwhile, Happy New Year, Y'all.

      Bob
      Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
      Northern Arizona University
      Flagstaff, AZ
    • Sukie Curtis
      ... In personal e-mail correspondence, Crossan once indicated that when the Jesus Seminar was first getting going, he proposed to Funk that the JS begin with
      Message 2 of 3 , Jan 1, 2000
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        In response to just a bit of Bob Schacht's New Year's Eve message:

        >
        > Crossan outlines the research process we should be engaged in as follows
        > (references are to The Birth of Christianity):
        >
        > 1. Method (p. 143). According to Crossan, this must precede anything
        > else. Crossan bewails the lack of attention to method. Crossan writes
        > that his The Historical Jesus (1991) was intended to "inaugurate" a
        > full-blown debate on methodology among his peers, but he complains in
        > The Birth of Christianity (1998) that "There is still no serious
        > discussion of methodology in historical Jesus research" (p. 139). I
        > suspect that most scholars are content to suppose that there is something
        > called "the methods of critical scholarship," and that that, whatever it
        > is (i.e., whatever passed for critical scholarship when you were in
        > graduate school) should suffice. For example, in The Five Gospels (1993),
        > the authors take refuge in "the safeguards offered by the historical
        > methodologies practiced by all responsible scholars" (p. 5, without
        > enumeration). However, in the following pages (pp. 5-35), the authors of
        > The Five Gospels list around 50 "rules of evidence," etc. (identified in
        > red bulleted text) that seem intended to take the place of a formal
        > methodology. The "rules of written evidence," for example, were
        > "formulated and adopted ... to guide the assessment of gospel traditions"
        > by the Jesus Seminar (p. 16). Later (p.34), T5G noted that
        >
        > "The Fellows of the Seminar are critical scholars. To be a *critical*
        > scholar means to make empirical, factual evidence-- evidence open to
        > confirmation by independent, neutral observers-- the controling factor in
        > historical judgments. ... Critical scholars adopt the principle of
        > methodological skepticism: accept only what passes the rigorous test of
        > the rules of evidence."
        >
        > Since Crossan was intimately involved in this project, and since he
        > doesn't mention this work in The Birth of Christianity, the rules of
        > evidence formulated by his colleagues for that project evidently are not
        > sufficient in his view. In fact, neither The Five Gospels, the Jesus
        > Seminar, nor Robert Funk appear in the indexes of this book (does this
        > strike anyone else as odd?)

        In personal e-mail correspondence, Crossan once indicated that when the
        Jesus Seminar was first getting going, he proposed to Funk that the JS begin
        with discussion of methodology but that he conceded to Funk's point that if
        they did so, they might still be discussing methodology in ten years and
        have made no progress toward consensus on the historical Jesus. As I
        understand it, each fellow of the Seminar followed his/her own method and
        criteria in discussing and voting. And that those opening pages of The Five
        Gospels reflects more of a collection of those various criteria, rather than
        an agreed-upon-before-beginning method to be followed by all participants.
        In which case those pages are somewhat misleading in suggesting (as Bob has
        quoted) that the "rules of evidence" were "formulated and adopted . . . to
        guide the assessment of gospel traditions."


        Sukie Curtis
        Cumberland Foreside, Maine

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      • Brian Tucker
        ... It appears that the choices are Crossan s Interdisciplinary method or Wright s critical realist method. What is your opinion of Wright s description on his
        Message 3 of 3 , Jan 1, 2000
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          Sukie Curtis wrote:

          > In response to just a bit of Bob Schacht's New Year's Eve message:
          >
          > >
          > > Crossan outlines the research process we should be engaged in as follows
          > > (references are to The Birth of Christianity):
          > >
          > > 1. Method (p. 143). According to Crossan, this must precede anything
          > > else.
          >
          > In personal e-mail correspondence, Crossan once indicated that when the
          > Jesus Seminar was first getting going, he proposed to Funk that the JS begin
          > with discussion of methodology but that he conceded to Funk's point that if
          > they did so, they might still be discussing methodology in ten years and
          > have made no progress toward consensus on the historical Jesus.
          >

          It appears that the choices are Crossan's Interdisciplinary method or Wright's
          critical realist method.

          What is your opinion of Wright's description on his method in chapter 4 of _New
          Testament and the People of God_. He defines his method as a critical realist
          position "which acknowledges that all knowledge of realities external to oneself
          takes place within the framework of a world view, of which stories form an
          essential part." (NTPG 45) This removes his method from a narrow empiricism
          a.k.a. positivism.

          Wright feels that his method has not be challenged his method, "Since no one has
          yet engaged, far less attempted to refute, my arguments there, I am not too
          anxious about gadfly like criticisms that sting the surface but do not touch the
          substance." (1999:245)

          Crossan critiques his presuppositions (1998:95-99) but does not interact with
          his critical realist method but does touch on his hypothesis and verification
          methodology. Is there any bibliography critiquing Wright's method, or do you
          have thoughts on the weaknesses of his method?

          As it pertains to criteria a method does not make - The survey that I am
          familiar with that attempts to link the two is: Dennis Polkow, "Method and
          Criteria for Historical Jesus Research," SBL Seminar Papers 26 (1987): 336-56.
          >From a conservative methodology, Craig Evans, "Authenticity Criteria in Life of
          Jesus Research," Christian Scholar's Review 19 (1989): 6-31. It seems their
          assumption is the underlying theory is called "methodological doubt."

          Methodological naturalism seems to have some potential for wide acceptance:

          1. Search for common ground. A lowest common denominator that all can agree on
          (i.e. your inventory with Davies). Is that inventory available, besides in 5G?
          2. Strategy of hypothetical thinking. Limiting evidence to that which would be
          admissible to a naturalist.
          3. This method is pragmatic and heuristic.

          Crossan does mention critical realism, which he calls interactivism, but he
          differs with Wright on how this concept works in practice. (1998:44)

          A chart comparing Crossan's proposed method with Wright's method would be
          helpful at this point - any volunteers?

          It may be that there is some overlap between the two and Crossan is caricaturing
          Wright's method, of course, that 's what Wright did when he was here in Detroit
          in a couple months ago.

          I agree with the point that Sukie made concerning the differing methods of the
          JS. There is some benefit to that, but I wonder if things would be different if
          there was an agreed upon method to use?

          Ben Meyer had written concerning the topic of methods in NT studies:
          Critical Realism and the New Testament, Princeton Theological Monograph Series
          17 (Allison Park, PA: Pickwick, 1989)
          Would this have anything to add to our discussion, maybe those more familiar
          with this work could respond?

          I agree that this is an important topic, I feel somewhat unprepared to respond
          cogently to your post. It seems to me that Crossan is on target, but how can we
          move from a focus on interpretation to method and inventory?

          Thanks
          Brian Tucker
          jbtucker@...
          Riverview, MI
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