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Re: [XTalk] Re Sayings priority..

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  • Rikki E. Watts
    HI Bob, I m about to head off o/seas for a couple of weeks so will need to go quiet for a while (don t have time to respond at length to your helpful
    Message 1 of 16 , Jul 15, 2000
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      Re: [XTalk] Re Sayings priority.. HI Bob,

      I'm about to head off o/seas for a couple of weeks so will need to go quiet for a while (don't have time to respond at length to your helpful post--sorry if I misunderstood you or put words in your mouth, in places; but (again) as always, a stimulating discussion... many thanks

      Every blessing
      Rikk

    • Rikki E. Watts
      Thanks David, in response to .... ... Good point. The next question would be: what is that function? Are the words of Jesus preserved solely because they
      Message 2 of 16 , Jul 16, 2000
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        Thanks David,

        in response to ....
        >>> I am unconvinced that GThom simply because it contains sayings only
        > is earlier. Rather I suspect that the form of GThom owes more to the
        > author's perception of Jesus than its antiquity. So I repeat my
        > question: what is it in the author's perception of Jesus that causes
        > him to want to ignore Jesus' mighty deeds and other actions (what he
        > did in the Temple, the people he ate with, where he lived, etc)? And
        > is it possible that this outlook has also heavily influenced his
        > choice of sayings and the accuracy with which he has recorded them?
        > Has GThom also invented sayings to suit his particular perception of
        > Jesus? how can we tell?<<

        ... you wrote ..
        >
        > Traditions exist to serve a function, and I am inclined to think that
        > the function of a tradition will control the forms the tradition takes
        > in the course of its transmission. Traditions are there to meet the
        > needs of the users of the tradition, right? But the needs that
        > influence that preservation process are constantly changing.
        Good point. The next question would be: what is that function? Are the
        words of Jesus preserved solely because they meet a particularly pressing
        need or is there a combination of factors? If the early Christians already
        saw Jesus as some kind of exalted figure then might not "need" also include
        a desire to preserve his words simply because they are his teachings?
        Although some on the list will no doubt disagree, I think Burridge's
        argument that the gospel genre has strong connections with GR Bioi is still
        quite strong in which case one of the interests is simply to preserve the
        memory and teaching of the individual concerned. Obviously some sort of
        selection process is at work but perhaps we should be careful not to define
        needs of the church too narrowly. They might also be interested in a fairly
        accurate picture (according to their standards and genres) of their revered
        teacher who is already apparently closely identified with God in some
        circles by the time Paul writes (to state the obvious: somewhat earlier than
        the traditional gospels).

        > The needs
        > of the first (Jewish) followers are going to be different than those
        > of the gentiles who became associated with them. The sayings
        > traditions do not necessarily *have* to be the product of Jesus, or
        > even first preserved by his immediate followers (a possibility that
        > Kloppenborg specifically leaves open in _The Formation of Q_, 317ff).
        > They could have been introduced at any point to meet the needs of a
        > subgroup, and which other subgroups found attractive in their own
        > right, and on it goes.
        This too is true, but again might be too simple (if I've understood you
        correctly). Long time critics of this "creative needs" view have asked the
        excellent question ... if sayings are so directly related to needs and don't
        have to be the product of Jesus, why are there e.g. no sayings about
        circumcision, or food offered to idols, the broader role of the Law? These
        were burning issues in the early church and yet "Jesus" is silent or not
        particularly clear (Mt 5.17ff). How does one explain this? It seems to me
        that the most straightforward and historically likely answer is that Jesus
        is already seen as authoritative (even much more) and one does not simply
        produce sayings to suit. There are apparently some limits on authorial
        creativity (cf. 1 Cor 7.25). (Imagine e.g. someone who regarded Dom
        Crossan as authoritative on HJ beginning to invent Crossan sayings to suit
        her particular needs ... why should it really be too much different in the
        early church?).

        > In short, the group using the sayings preserved
        > in GOT may have had needs completely different from group(s) that
        > preserved the sayings in the synoptic gospels. To the former, Jesus
        > did not need to perform mighty deeds, or have a ministry, etc. To the
        > latter, Jesus *did* need to do so. The sayings themselves are related,
        > true, but where were they introduced, and why? Let's face it, they are
        > not particularly "deep" or profound. What function can we say they
        > served, without having to resort to weak answers such as "the
        > edification the believers in times of crisis" (how would such sayings
        > edify anyone, really?), etc.?

        A point well made. I think I can see how the traditional gospels are keen
        to link Jesus (and his movement) with Israel and her calling as is most of
        the NT (e.g. the thorough-going use of imagery, concepts, texts from
        Israel's scriptures; I am presently writing a book, JESUS AND THE MIGHTY
        DEEDS OF YAHWEH, in which I argue that the very narrow compass of Jesus'
        mighty deeds--cf'd to the much broader range of deeds associated with
        Asclepius etc--suggest an attempt to see his actions in terms of Yahweh's
        interventions in Israel's past). GThom for some reason discounts all of
        this. My question is the same as yours: why? Is there some kind of
        proto-Marcionite suspicion of the Jews and their OT God in evidence here?
        Does he not have much time for history and creation? If GThom's selectivity
        is such that it dismisses or discounts so much of who Jesus was, then I
        wonder to what extent its author was prepared to let Jesus be himself. If
        he is happy to modify Jesus in such a wholesale fashion (assuming that GThom
        reflects his ideological perspective of Jesus, and it might not be the whole
        story at all) then what does that say about the reliability of the sayings
        traditions he passes on? At best it might be that only his selection
        criteria are heavily biased. At worst it could mean that he also feels free
        to significantly modify Jesus' sayings as well.

        Of course all of this grew out of my original point: surely the actions of
        Jesus are as important as his sayings. How reliable is a source for whom
        Jesus' actions are apparently of no significance at all? One might wonder
        just how well he has understood Jesus or whether in fact he feels so free to
        pick and choose that his picture of Jesus becomes quite unreliable.

        Every blessing

        Rikk

        PS I'm heading off overseas for the next two weeks and don't know if I'll
        have a chance to continue this thread while away.
      • Rikki E. Watts
        Bob, Thanks for the useful insights (as always!).. some other observations tho -it s true that similar sayings appear in different settings. But I m not sure
        Message 3 of 16 , Aug 3, 2000
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          Bob,

          Thanks for the useful insights (as always!)..

          some other observations tho'

          -it's true that similar sayings appear in different settings. But I'm not
          sure this necessarily supports the priority of sayings over actions
          (narrative?). Isn't it highly likely that as a peripatetic speaker Jesus
          repeated himself, not just tens of times but even scores if not more (after
          all our gospels total at most ten hours of reading.. not much from approx 3
          years of teaching etc.)? If we leave aside for the moment the question of
          later oral-literary interference/borrowing (I like to use the model of the
          overlapping circles when several stones are thrown into a pond), it is
          perhaps not unlikely that each of the similar-sayings plus
          dissimilar-settings could be unique moments in themselves. That is, we
          often assume that because the saying looks similar if must come from the
          same moment in HJ. But how safe is this assumption? If this scenario is
          correct then the Synoptic material indicates that the sayings were
          characteristically transmitted in a larger narrative setting. This has also
          been argued wrt the parables; i.e. they did not circulate independent of
          their narrative settings.

          - re your second point: I wonder if in fact we do find similar narrative
          frames with different sayings, off the top of my head, e.g. the cleansing of
          the Temple in John vs. Synoptics. the Last Supper with its different
          versions of the words of institution, and the storm-stilling sayings in Mt
          and Mk which are generally agreed to have slightly different emphases but
          appear within the same narrative.

          - finally, I'm not entirely sure how affirming the larger narrative becomes
          "what Jesus said really didn't make that much of an impression". I think I
          was arguing against de-narratized (excuse the English) sayings, not for
          exchanging one extreme for another. Both sayings and settings are
          important.

          I'm interest though (still) in what you think of the suggestion that an
          author's perception of Jesus will impact the form chosen.

          Every blessing
          Rikk



          Dr. R. E. Watts (PhD, Cantab) Phone (604) 224 3245
          Regent College, Univ. Brit. Col. Fax (604) 224 3097
          5800 University Boulevard
          Vancouver, BC
          CANADA V6T 2E4
        • Bob Schacht
          ... Rikk, I think you may well be right; but how can we know? That is, what kind of test can we construct to test this hypothesis? Otherwise, we re reduced to
          Message 4 of 16 , Aug 3, 2000
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            At 05:57 PM 8/3/00 +0000, Rikki E. Watts wrote:
            Bob,

            Thanks for the useful insights (as always!)..

            some other observations tho'

            -it's true that similar sayings appear in different settings.  But I'm not
            sure this necessarily supports the priority of sayings over actions
            (narrative?).  Isn't it highly likely that as a peripatetic speaker Jesus
            repeated himself, not just tens of times but even scores if not more (after all our gospels total at most ten hours of reading.. not much from approx 3 years of teaching etc.)? 

            Rikk,
            I think you may well be right; but how can we know? That is, what kind of test can we construct to test this hypothesis? Otherwise, we're reduced to mere speculation, or De gustabus non disputandum est, if I remember the phrase correctly.
            Against your hypothesis is the observation that *exactly* the same wording as in Mark is found in different narrative frames in Matthew and Luke. (I'm writing from memory; if I'm wrong about this I hope someone will correct me.) If your hypothesis is correct, wouldn't we expect minor variations in the wording with each re-telling?

             If we leave aside for the moment the question of later oral-literary interference/borrowing (I like to use the model of the overlapping circles when several stones are thrown into a pond), it is perhaps not unlikely that each of the similar-sayings plus dissimilar-settings could be unique moments in themselves.  That is, we often assume that because the saying looks similar if must come from the same moment in HJ.  But how safe is this assumption?...

            I think we're up against Occam's Razor here.

            - re your second point: I wonder if in fact we do find similar narrative
            frames with different sayings, off the top of my head, e.g. the cleansing of the Temple in John vs. Synoptics. the Last Supper with its different
            versions of the words of institution, and the storm-stilling sayings in Mt
            and Mk which are generally agreed to have slightly different emphases but
            appear within the same narrative.

            These might bear closer examination. Remember, the key here is that the Narrative frames must be more similar than the embedded sayings. I can't check it right now because I'm on the road. Anyone else want to help?

            - finally, I'm not entirely sure how affirming the larger narrative becomes "what Jesus said really didn't make that much of an impression".  I think I was arguing against de-narratized (excuse the English) sayings, not for exchanging one extreme for another.  Both sayings and settings are
            important. 

            I agree.

            I'm interest though (still) in what you think of the suggestion that an
            author's perception of Jesus will impact the form chosen.

            As scholars, we like to believe that we don't bring pre-conceived perceptions to our interpretations, but I think it is the very rare person who achieves that idea.

            On the idea of Jesus the Doer rather than Jesus the Teacher, when CrossTalk first started under the aegis of Harper-Collins, we had an extended discussion with Stevan Davies about his book, Jesus the Healer. I think there is wide support for the idea that the historical Jesus was viewed by his contemporaries as a healer-- but beyond that generalization, details blur. There is also widespread agreement on the narrative frame of Jesus' last journey to Jerusalem, and his crucifixion there-- although again, details blur. We have, after all, the Jesus Seminar's work on the Acts of Jesus, as well as the words of Jesus analyzed so thoroughly in The Five Gospels. I believe that the intro to the Acts of Jesus contains a summary of the arguments regarding the priority of the sayings vs deeds.

            Every blessing
            Rikk

            Thanks,
            Bob
          • Rikki E. Watts
            Thanks Bob. Some fascinating questions arise, (sorry about the length of this, I thinking out loud as it were) e.g.: Rikk, I think you may well be right; but
            Message 5 of 16 , Aug 4, 2000
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              Re: [XTalk] Re Sayings priority.. Thanks Bob.  Some fascinating questions arise, (sorry about the length of this, I thinking out loud as it were) e.g.:

              Rikk,
              I think you may well be right; but how can we know? That is, what kind of test can we construct to test this hypothesis? Otherwise, we're reduced to mere speculation, or De gustabus non disputandum est, if I remember the phrase correctly.

              I'm not clear on what hypothesis you are referring to: do you mean the suggestion that Jesus said similar if not the same things on many occasions?   It seems to me that this is far more likely than him saying things only once.  How does one test it?  I'm not entirely sure.  But then perhaps one could ask how does one test the hypothesis that Jesus only said things once?  

              Or do you mean, the hypothesis that actions and narrative context are as important to understanding Jesus as are his sayings?  I should have thought that on the basis of Wittgenstein's language game that social contexts (i.e. action and narrative) are essential ingredients to any hermeneutic.  To return to the original GThom issue, one wonders how anyone could hope to understand Jesus with only sayings to go by?  Surely the key insight of the so-called new quest is that Jesus' Jewish context matters; I find it difficult to hold to this and at the same time grant so much importance to GThom with its utterly contextless sayings when in fact, stripped of their context, the opportunities for misreading the sayings increase by orders of magnitude.

              Your question about testing also raises a more fundamental issue for me, namely, what is it that drives the exercise--the desire for a workable test ("how can we know?") or for an historically accurate reconstruction; i.e. to put it crudely, certainty or history?  What if the historical reality is more complex than our simplified models can accurately reflect?  At what point do we decide that lack of clarity is preferable to the certainty of a model that doesn't have much contact with reality?  (Of course these are not polar opposites though in this conversation it seems to me that going for the one may diminish the other.)  As I mentioned earlier, the idea of multiple similar-sayings in varying historical/narrative contexts (not to mention oral-literary interference) is far more likely historically.  Granted it makes the HJ project exceedingly difficult, but what use are the results of a workable test if its assumed historical datum is fallacious?   This is why I warn my students to examine the assumptions of a given method to see if they are tilted more toward a desire for certainty rather than a genuine historical reconstruction (for what it's worth, I see this overriding desire for certainty as the underlying unifying principle of fundamentalism, whether "liberal" or "conservative").  So what should we do?  Recognize that the complexity of the data means that most models don't work ... or insist on a workable model even if it means such a fundamental distortion of the reality that the model's results are meaningless?  More importantly, how does one decide where on the continuum we stand?  I'm not sure I have any answers here.  

              Against your hypothesis is the observation that *exactly* the same wording as in Mark is found in different narrative frames in Matthew and Luke. (I'm writing from memory; if I'm wrong about this I hope someone will correct me.) If your hypothesis is correct, wouldn't we expect minor variations in the wording with each re-telling?

              You are right, such "exact" parallels do exist.  But on my reconstruction the "exact" saying was in all likelihood repeated in many different settings, some more alike than others (as is the experience of many travelling speakers and preachers: I remember someone commenting that they had once heard Billy Graham use exactly the same illustration to make a different point on five consecutive nights).   Would we expect minor variations in wording?  A good point.  But, first, I'm not suggesting that all similar sayings must be from separate incidents.  Some may be recounting the same incident (allowing for different emphases and recollections) while other similar, even "exact", sayings are from different settings.  I think you would agree that this scenario is probably much more realistic than either extreme.  The question then becomes one of distinguishing between the two.  Second, it is also possible that "similar" sayings (those from different original settings) are "corrected" toward a "normal" form through oral and literary interference (a similar dynamic can be seen in the way in which texts of Mk and Lk are often "corrected" toward the Matthean form).  A recent PhD on Assyrian annals (under Kenneth Kitchen; a long way from the gospels I know, but perhaps helpful) has shown that there is a tendency not toward expansion but toward stylization and brevity; one might see this perhaps in the way that Matthew (assuming Markan priority) seems to abbreviate Mark.  If this kind of thing is going on, then it is not surprising that slight variations in wording may be less than we expect.  Even so, it seems to me that there are many such minor variations in wording in pericopae that appear to describe the same sayings in the same event.  

              If we leave aside for the moment the question of later oral-literary interference/borrowing (I like to use the model of the overlapping circles when several stones are thrown into a pond), it is perhaps not unlikely that each of the similar-sayings plus dissimilar-settings could be unique moments in themselves.  That is, we often assume that because the saying looks similar if must come from the same moment in HJ.  But how safe is this assumption?...

              I think we're up against Occam's Razor here.

              I'm not sure what you mean here: do you mean that this is too complex and we should go for the simpler option--Jesus only said things once?  On a science listing of which I am a member questions have been raised recently about the utility of Occam's Razor, and espec with regard to historical events.  As far as I can see there is no necessary reason why in human affairs the "simplest" explanation is the best--"simplest" of course assumes that we can "graph" all that goes into human action and decision-making--I doubt that anyone would claim as much.  Occam's razor might have had a reasonably good track record in the natural sciences in the past (though its efficacy in the present is being questioned), I'm not sure that it necessarily works as well in historical studies where we need also to consider verisimilitude: humans don't always (rarely?) engage in the most logical or simplest behavior.

              ...

              I'm interest though (still) in what you think of the suggestion that an
              author's perception of Jesus will impact the form chosen.

              As scholars, we like to believe that we don't bring pre-conceived perceptions to our interpretations, but I think it is the very rare person who achieves that idea.

              Oops--sorry about the English ("interested..").  What I was after here was the suggestion that GThom's contextless sayings tell us more about Thomas' perception of Jesus than the antiquity or reliability of his work.  I.e. is it possible that there is an ideological reason for GThom's ignoring the sayings' context and Jesus' actions?  Does he not mention Jesus' mighty deeds/actions because he doesn't like the suggestion that bodies/history might matter?  Maybe we have contextless sayings because GThom only wants a Jesus who resembles a travelling rhetor or cynic teacher for whom wisdom is merely logos.  How can we decide if and to what extent GThom has remade Jesus in his own image?  

              On the idea of Jesus the Doer rather than Jesus the Teacher,

              (Again I don't want to set teacher and doer over against one another... surely if Israel's scriptures show us anything it is that Israel's God does both: he teaches and acts, and acts and teaches.)  

              when CrossTalk first started under the aegis of Harper-Collins, we had an extended discussion with Stevan Davies about his book, Jesus the Healer. I think there is wide support for the idea that the historical Jesus was viewed by his contemporaries as a healer-- but beyond that generalization, details blur. There is also widespread agreement on the narrative frame of Jesus' last journey to Jerusalem, and his crucifixion there-- although again, details blur. We have, after all, the Jesus Seminar's work on the Acts of Jesus, as well as the words of Jesus analyzed so thoroughly in The Five Gospels. I believe that the intro to the Acts of Jesus contains a summary of the arguments regarding the priority of the sayings vs deeds.

              Thanks, I'll check the Acts out.  

              Thanks too for a fruitful and thought-provoking exchange,

              Rikk

            • Richard Mallett
              Reply to: Rikki E. Watts ... different original settings) are corrected toward a normal form through oral and literary interference (a similar dynamic can
              Message 6 of 16 , Aug 4, 2000
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                Reply to: Rikki E. Watts

                >> Second, it is also possible that "similar" sayings (those from
                different original settings) are "corrected" toward a "normal" form through
                oral and literary interference (a similar dynamic can be seen in the way in
                which texts of Mk and Lk are often "corrected" toward the Matthean form).
                A
                recent PhD on Assyrian annals (under Kenneth Kitchen; a long way from the
                gospels I know, but perhaps helpful) has shown that there is a tendency not
                toward expansion but toward stylization and brevity; one might see this
                perhaps in the way that Matthew (assuming Markan priority) seems to
                abbreviate Mark. <<

                I thought that the idea of Markan priority was based on the idea that
                Matt. and Luke expanded on Mark, and that Mark represented the most
                primitive version ? If this is not the case, on what basis do we decide
                which came first ?

                Richard.


                E-mail from: Richard Mallett, 05-Aug-2000
              • David C. Hindley
                ... that Matt. and Luke expanded on Mark, and that Mark represented the most primitive version? If this is not the case, on what basis do we decide which came
                Message 7 of 16 , Aug 4, 2000
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                  Richard Mallet asked:

                  >>I thought that the idea of Markan priority was based on the idea
                  that Matt. and Luke expanded on Mark, and that Mark represented the
                  most primitive version? If this is not the case, on what basis do we
                  decide which came first?<<

                  That's the rub. Much thought has been, and is being, expended by those
                  attempting to determine the directions an editor might take an
                  existing tradition that s/he has taken over. It was bad enough that E.
                  P. Sanders (_The tendencies of the synoptic tradition_, 1969) was
                  unable to confirm that any specific trend can be unambiguously
                  identified in our written gospels, yet people still go on asserting
                  that this gospel author expanded or compacted that gospel author's
                  work, as if the matter was as plain as day.

                  The recent interest in anthropology among NT scholars, I think, is
                  partly due to a desire to determine whether these kinds of tendencies
                  can be deduced from human behavior. The linguists, starting with
                  Saussure, offered language as the universal key to understanding the
                  way information is passed on and made use of. The problem with this is
                  that only some human behaviors are directly related to our biology,
                  while a much larger part of them are functions of functions of other
                  functions, far removed from their basic biological roots. These
                  exhibit themselves as social traits that can vary significantly from
                  one culture to the next.

                  What I would ask myself is this: Why have NT scholars not taken the
                  initiative and designed cross-cultural *experiments* as a means to
                  deduce what, if any, communicative traits really do exist?
                  Psychologists and sociologists, for instance, have devised some
                  ingenious experiments that do exactly this kind of thing. Do NT
                  scholars have access to the same kinds of resources that scholars
                  engaged in psychology or sociology do, and I mean student bodies from
                  which to recruit research associates or upon which to conduct the
                  experiments? Most likely the groundwork has already been laid in the
                  fields of linguistics, communications and biology. All they need to do
                  is redirect some of that energy towards questions relevant to biblical
                  studies.

                  Just my 2 centavos. What do Professors Watts or Schacht think?

                  Regards,

                  Dave Hindley
                  Cleveland, Ohio, USA

                  PS: Bob, I seem to recall you bemoaning something similar to this not
                  so long ago. <g>
                • Bob Schacht
                  ... Rikk, It would be helpful if you quoted the context of my question. I had to fetch it from another computer to figure out how to answer your question. ...
                  Message 8 of 16 , Aug 4, 2000
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                    At 01:51 PM 8/4/00 -0700, Rikki E. Watts wrote:
                    Thanks Bob.  Some fascinating questions arise, (sorry about the length of this, I thinking out loud as it were) e.g.:

                    Rikk,
                    I think you may well be right; but how can we know? That is, what kind of test can we construct to test this hypothesis? Otherwise, we're reduced to mere speculation, or De gustabus non disputandum est, if I remember the phrase correctly.


                    I'm not clear on what hypothesis you are referring to: do you mean the suggestion that Jesus said similar if not the same things on many occasions?

                    Rikk,
                    It would be helpful if you quoted the context of my question. I had to fetch it from another computer to figure out how to answer your question. Your crucial statement which preceded my question was:

                     Isn't it highly likely that as a peripatetic speaker Jesus
                    repeated himself, not just tens of times but even scores if not more (after all our gospels total at most ten hours of reading.. not much from approx 3 years of teaching etc.)? 

                    Hence, the answer to your first question is "yes".

                      It seems to me that this is far more likely than him saying things only once.  How does one test it?  I'm not entirely sure.  But then perhaps one could ask how does one test the hypothesis that Jesus only said things once? 

                    Fair enough. This goes to your other question (see below) about the "author's perception of Jesus." If we perceive Jesus as Son of God, who had his script all worked out by the time he was five years old, then there is no reason for his teaching on any given subject to evolve. However, if we perceive Jesus as purely human, then I think it is more natural to suppose that over the short span of 3 years, his message would have evolved as he worked it out. Darn. We've lost the chance to test this by following Carl Joseph around with a microphone since the inception of his peripatetic wanderings around eastern Pennsylvania preaching the Gospel, dressed up to match your typical Sunday school depiction of Jesus. (I say this not disparagingly, but to marvel at his relative consistency in refusing money or material possessions, and not offering his own Gospel but preferring to quote from the KJV with no detectable personal theological spin. He seems to be trying to live out Luke 10:1-12, except that he does not try to cure people.)

                    Besides, do you really want to argue that Jesus would say exactly the same thing, regardless of context,
                    and would in no way alter his message to suit the context, i.e. Hebrews 13:8?

                    Or do you mean, the hypothesis that actions and narrative context are as important to understanding Jesus as are his sayings?

                    I did not see this in your statement preceding my question, so this is not what I meant.

                     I should have thought that on the basis of Wittgenstein's language game that social contexts (i.e. action and narrative) are essential ingredients to any hermeneutic.

                    Well, I would agree with that. But then we have the puzzle about why Matthew and Luke seem to freely re-assign sayings to different narrative frames. Would not Wittgenstein argue that message and context cohere, so that one cannot change one without changing the other? But if one looks at the synoptics, the connection between message and context seems somewhat arbitrary.

                    Let's go with your hypothesis that Jesus said the same thing many times, and that Matthew and Luke did not always copy Mark, but had access to independent testimony about the same saying uttered in different contexts. Is that what you want to argue? But the verbatim agreement between Mark, Matthew and Luke in so many places argues that if Matt & Luke weren't copying Mark, then at least all three were using the same source (The triple tradition) much of the time. You would then have to argue that there was more than one tradition involved, and that for some reason each Synoptic writer chose a different example from the traditions available to them rather than choosing the same example. I guess what I'm asking is, what source critical model are you using? If you are using something other than Mark and Q as the earliest independent sources, what model are you using?

                      To return to the original GThom issue, one wonders how anyone could hope to understand Jesus with only sayings to go by?

                    Well, Stevan Davies, erstwhile CrossTalker, had that hope. I think what he wanted was the Teaching of Jesus in a form like Euclidean Geometry, all neatly laid out in axioms, and assumptions, logically knit together in an edifice of understanding. One does not need much narrative context to understand Euclidean Geometry, although story problems can be useful as illustrations. The point being, of course, that Euclidean Geometry transcends narrative context, and consequently can be applied to an infinite number of specific contexts. Do you really want to argue that understanding of Jesus' sayings depends on narrative context, and that therefore his teachings are relative rather than absolute?

                     Surely the key insight of the so-called new quest is that Jesus' Jewish context matters; I find it difficult to hold to this and at the same time grant so much importance to GThom with its utterly contextless sayings when in fact, stripped of their context, the opportunities for misreading the sayings increase by orders of magnitude.

                    I'm sympathetic to that concern.

                    Your question about testing also raises a more fundamental issue for me, namely, what is it that drives the exercise--the desire for a workable test ("how can we know?") or for an historically accurate reconstruction; i.e. to put it crudely, certainty or history?

                    I'm sorry, this seems to me to be an utterly false dichotomy and the reddest of red herrings. If our quest for the truth about the historical Jesus is to be something other than a matter of personal taste (de gustibus non disputandum est),  we must have some means of choosing between alternative interpretations. There is always the issue of how we know what we know. CrossTalk has a history of relying on empiricism to settle debates-- that is, the key question is, what evidence do you have to support your position? While evidence is usually conceived as textual evidence, as our discussion with Crossan showed, we are willing to consider other kinds of relevant evidence as well (e.g., archaeology). But personal preference is not usually considered to be persuasive. In other words, CrossTalk since its inception has attempted to promote objectivism rather than subjectivism. To me, "accuracy" and "testability" are inextricably linked, because I do not know how to measure accuracy in any other way.

                     What if the historical reality is more complex than our simplified models can accurately reflect?

                    Well, duh. That is a trivial truism. The key is in your word "accurately." How can we increase the accuracy? How can we compare the accuracies of rival models?

                     At what point do we decide that lack of clarity is preferable to the certainty of a model that doesn't have much contact with reality?

                    Your use of "certainty" strikes me as odd. I suppose what you mean is "logically coherent" or "rational"?
                    BTW,  "contact with reality" is what I mean by "test". If a model does not have much contact with reality, then I don't care how rational or logical it is (the trouble probably lies in unwarranted assumptions).

                    We obviously have to deal with "lack of clarity." Maybe I have a problem with "lack of clarity," and you don't. Then I will want to find ways to do away with lack of clarity, but you will be comfortable with it. Robert McC. Adams, (former?) director of the Smithsonian and major professor of my major professor, once wrote of the need for tolerance of ambiguity. I agree that one must sometimes put up with ambiguity and a lack of clarity, but that is not my goal state as a (wannabe) scholar. My understanding is that one of the goals of CrossTalk is to reduce the extent of ambiguity and lack of clarity.

                     (Of course these are not polar opposites though in this conversation it seems to me that going for the one may diminish the other.)  As I mentioned earlier, the idea of multiple similar-sayings in varying historical/narrative contexts (not to mention oral-literary interference) is far more likely historically.

                    As a general principle, I agree with those odds. But we need to deal with particular cases.

                      Granted it makes the HJ project exceedingly difficult, but what use are the results of a workable test if its assumed historical datum is fallacious? 

                    This seems circular. I suppose what you are suggesting is that the presumably "fallacious assumed historical datum" is the idea that the sayings material is primary because the same saying appears in different narrative frames in the hands of different writers. This idea is actually a hypothesis, and proceeds on the grounds of parsimony. It can be proven wrong. It merely serves as a point of departure. What is missing from our discussion is an actual use of textual evidence. We have two rival hypotheses:

                    1.
                    that multiple similar-sayings in varying historical/narrative contexts (not to mention oral-literary interference) is far more likely historically

                    2. that the sayings material is primary because the same saying appears in different narrative frames in the hands of different writers

                    We just need a way of choosing between those alternatives in particular cases.

                     This is why I warn my students to examine the assumptions of a given method to see if they are tilted more toward a desire for certainty rather than a genuine historical reconstruction (for what it's worth, I see this overriding desire for certainty as the underlying unifying principle of fundamentalism, whether "liberal" or "conservative").

                    I have already indicated what I think of this approach. Would you call scientists fundamentalists, then? IMHO a desire for certainty is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. It becomes bad when one's desire for that goal over-rides any consideration of appropriate method. 

                    I'm going to skip the rest of this dialogue because I have already spent far more time on it than I had planned. Our epistemologies seem to differ so radically that I can scarcely see any path of convergence.

                    Bob



                    Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
                    Northern Arizona University
                    Flagstaff, AZ
                  • Bob Schacht
                    ... Crossan has made a step in this direction in Chapter 5 of The Birth of Christianity. Of course, it is not a controlled experiment. But at least it rises
                    Message 9 of 16 , Aug 4, 2000
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                      At 11:59 PM 8/4/00 -0400, David C. Hindley wrote:
                      ...What I would ask myself is this: Why have NT scholars not taken the
                      initiative and designed cross-cultural *experiments* as a means to
                      deduce what, if any, communicative traits really do exist?

                      Crossan has made a step in this direction in Chapter 5 of The Birth of Christianity. Of course, it is not a controlled experiment. But at least it rises above the level of armchair thought-experiments by looking at what people actually do.

                      Psychologists and sociologists, for instance, have devised some
                      ingenious experiments that do exactly this kind of thing. Do NT
                      scholars have access to the same kinds of resources that scholars
                      engaged in psychology or sociology do, and I mean student bodies from
                      which to recruit research associates or upon which to conduct the
                      experiments? Most likely the groundwork has already been laid in the
                      fields of linguistics, communications and biology. All they need to do
                      is redirect some of that energy towards questions relevant to biblical
                      studies.

                      Just my 2 centavos. What do Professors Watts or Schacht think?

                      Schacht thinks this might be a worthwhile idea to test out. Methinks Watts, on the basis of recent posts, would abhor the idea as a quest for Certainty which, as you know by now, is the dreaded mark of fundamentalism. Or perhaps I have misunderstood?

                      Regards,

                      Dave Hindley
                      Cleveland, Ohio, USA

                      PS: Bob, I seem to recall you bemoaning something similar to this not
                      so long ago. <g>


                      Not quite sure what you mean. But if you mean the development of evidence-based theories of literary relationship, I'm all for it. You started out with reference to the synoptic problem, and certainly examples supporting elaboration rather than simplification abound (e.g., the King Arthur legends). But I think others have pointed out that simplification sometimes occurs as well. In art history, for example, there are abundant examples of complex naturalistic designs evolving -- perhaps I should say devolving-- into increasingly symbolic and then merely geometric abstractions, until a mere pen stroke is all that is left. So both kinds of trends have been observed. What we need to know more about is the conditions under which one or the other is chosen.

                      Bob
                      Robert.Schacht@...
                      3736 N. Manor Rd.
                      Flagstaff, AZ 86004
                      (520) 527-4002 (H)
                      (520) 523-1342 (W)
                    • Rikki E. Watts
                      Sorry Richard, I was not clear enough. I was talking about how in a given pericope Mt tends to abbreviate and condense Mk. (This doesn t always happen of
                      Message 10 of 16 , Aug 5, 2000
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                        Sorry Richard, I was not clear enough. I was talking about how in a given
                        pericope Mt tends to abbreviate and condense Mk. (This doesn't always
                        happen of course, on occasion Mt pretty much retains the material and if I
                        recall correctly sometimes even has a longer account. And on top of this it
                        is generally recognized that the synoptic problem is a lot more complex than
                        our simple generalizations allow, and hence e.g. my remarks would not apply
                        on a Griesbachian approach. Personally, I think there are too many
                        imponderables for us to confidently provide a solution.) Mt of course, as
                        you note, adds a lot more of his own material and in this way expands on Mk.

                        Rikk

                        > From: Richard Mallett <100114.573@...>
                        > Reply-To: crosstalk2@egroups.com
                        > Date: Fri, 4 Aug 2000 20:12:06 -0400
                        > To: Blind.Copy.Receiver@...
                        > Subject: Re: [XTalk] Re Sayings priority..
                        >
                        > Reply to: Rikki E. Watts
                        >
                        >>> Second, it is also possible that "similar" sayings (those from
                        > different original settings) are "corrected" toward a "normal" form through
                        > oral and literary interference (a similar dynamic can be seen in the way in
                        > which texts of Mk and Lk are often "corrected" toward the Matthean form).
                        > A
                        > recent PhD on Assyrian annals (under Kenneth Kitchen; a long way from the
                        > gospels I know, but perhaps helpful) has shown that there is a tendency not
                        > toward expansion but toward stylization and brevity; one might see this
                        > perhaps in the way that Matthew (assuming Markan priority) seems to
                        > abbreviate Mark. <<
                        >
                        > I thought that the idea of Markan priority was based on the idea that
                        > Matt. and Luke expanded on Mark, and that Mark represented the most
                        > primitive version ? If this is not the case, on what basis do we decide
                        > which came first ?
                        >
                        > Richard.
                        >
                        >
                        > E-mail from: Richard Mallett, 05-Aug-2000
                        >
                        >
                        >
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                      • Rikki E. Watts
                        Bob, sorry about the editing, I m trying to cut down on pages of old text. Just to reconnect: this was originally about the suggestion that GThom was earlier
                        Message 11 of 16 , Aug 5, 2000
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                          Re: [XTalk] Re Sayings priority.. Bob, sorry about the editing, I'm trying to cut down on pages of old text.  Just to reconnect: this was originally about the suggestion that GThom was earlier because it contained only sayings.  I asked whether or not Jesus' actions should also be considered.  I recall your response was that it seemed to be the sayings that were fixed while the narrative frames changed.  I countered by suggesting that Jesus could well have said the "same" thing in a variety of different settings.  

                          Ok, so we are agreed that Jesus probably repeated phrases and sayings on numerous occasions and in a range of settings?

                          ... This goes to your other question (see below) about the "author's perception of Jesus." If we perceive Jesus as Son of God, who had his script all worked out by the time he was five years old, then there is no reason for his teaching on any given subject to evolve. However, if we perceive Jesus as purely human, then I think it is more natural to suppose that over the short span of 3 years, his message would have evolved as he worked it out. ...

                          Why not a bit of both: could not Jesus at the outset of his preaching career (I assume the five year old bit is some tongue-in-cheek fun) have had a general sense of his mission and yet also have reflected on this and developed its implications as he progressed?  How much development took place is going to be very difficult to tell.  One might still have to admit the possibility that he had the substantial part of his message in place by the time he began.  

                          Besides, do you really want to argue that Jesus would say exactly the same thing, regardless of context,
                          and would in no way alter his message to suit the context, i.e. Hebrews 13:8?

                          Hardly.  But surely there are many contexts (of teaching or conflict) where saying the same sort of thing would not have been inappropriate--how often do you think Jesus might have had occasion to say that people were not made for Sabbath but Sabbath for people?   (I'm sorry, I might be a bit thick, but I can't see what has Heb 13.8 got to do with anything).

                          ...
                          I should have thought that on the basis of Wittgenstein's language game that social contexts (i.e. action and narrative) are essential ingredients to any hermeneutic.

                          Well, I would agree with that. But then we have the puzzle about why Matthew and Luke seem to freely re-assign sayings to different narrative frames. Would not Wittgenstein argue that message and context cohere, so that one cannot change one without changing the other? But if one looks at the synoptics, the connection between message and context seems somewhat arbitrary.

                          But this is the assumption I'm challenging: could not Jesus have had numerous occasions on which to declare that God preferred mercy and not sacrifice?   Message and context would cohere (presumably Jesus wouldn't have said it if it didn't fit the occasion), the general language game be the same, though the specific settings different.  Is there something here I'm missing?  On the other hand, would you mind giving some examples in the Synoptics where the link between message and context seems arbitrary?    

                          Let's go with your hypothesis that Jesus said the same thing many times, and that Matthew and Luke did not always copy Mark, but had access to independent testimony about the same saying uttered in different contexts. Is that what you want to argue? But the verbatim agreement between Mark, Matthew and Luke in so many places argues that if Matt & Luke weren't copying Mark, then at least all three were using the same source (The triple tradition) much of the time. You would then have to argue that there was more than one tradition involved, and that for some reason each Synoptic writer chose a different example from the traditions available to them rather than choosing the same example. I guess what I'm asking is, what source critical model are you using? If you are using something other than Mark and Q as the earliest independent sources, what model are you using?

                          Great question ...  the Synoptic problem: now the can opens!  Well, I think Sanders is onto something in that the process is probably a lot more complex than simple copying (you probably agree).  So at this point I'm agnostic as to any particular model.  I'm sure there are some (many) places where some kind of literary dependence is happening.  On the other hand, what did this look like (cf. Downing)?   And what if there is a very early Greek sayings tradition (the Hellenists?) with all the divergences appertaining thereto (cf. Bailey on informal but controlled oral tradition)?  But to get back to the original point: I think you were suggesting that the sayings are more important than the narrative setting given that sometimes the narrative setting seemed to change.   My response would be that the "changes" to the narrative could be explained on a number of bases ranging from the narratives describe two different moments through to the same moment but with the changes being editorial and/or not significant enough to cause concern.  We'd have to examine each case in its own right.  My point is that an absolutist "someone must have copied from someone else" approach when considering similar/"exact" sayings may not be the best history.  Other factors could give rise to similar sayings in different narrative frames.

                           To return to the original GThom issue, one wonders how anyone could hope to understand Jesus with only sayings to go by?

                          Well, Stevan Davies, erstwhile CrossTalker, had that hope. I think what he wanted was the Teaching of Jesus in a form like Euclidean Geometry, all neatly laid out in axioms, and assumptions, logically knit together in an edifice of understanding. One does not need much narrative context to understand Euclidean Geometry, although story problems can be useful as illustrations. The point being, of course, that Euclidean Geometry transcends narrative context, and consequently can be applied to an infinite number of specific contexts. Do you really want to argue that understanding of Jesus' sayings depends on narrative context, and that therefore his teachings are relative rather than absolute?

                          Yes I do think, as a general rule, that understanding Jesus' sayings involves appreciating their context.  (I'm not sure I understand where the "relative" rather than "absolute" comes from... all language is context dependent is it not?  Maybe I'm not clear on what you mean by relative here..  )

                          Surely the key insight of the so-called new quest is that Jesus' Jewish context matters; I find it difficult to hold to this and at the same time grant so much importance to GThom with its utterly contextless sayings when in fact, stripped of their context, the opportunities for misreading the sayings increase by orders of magnitude.

                          I'm sympathetic to that concern.

                          Your question about testing also raises a more fundamental issue for me, namely, what is it that drives the exercise--the desire for a workable test ("how can we know?") or for an historically accurate reconstruction; i.e. to put it crudely, certainty or history?

                          I'm sorry, this seems to me to be an utterly false dichotomy and the reddest of red herrings. If our quest for the truth about the historical Jesus is to be something other than a matter of personal taste (de gustibus non disputandum est),  we must have some means of choosing between alternative interpretations. There is always the issue of how we know what we know. CrossTalk has a history of relying on empiricism to settle debates-- that is, the key question is, what evidence do you have to support your position? While evidence is usually conceived as textual evidence, as our discussion with Crossan showed, we are willing to consider other kinds of relevant evidence as well (e.g., archaeology). But personal preference is not usually considered to be persuasive. In other words, CrossTalk since its inception has attempted to promote objectivism rather than subjectivism. To me, "accuracy" and "testability" are inextricably linked, because I do not know how to measure accuracy in any other way.

                          I think you've misunderstood me.  I should have thought it was clear that I accepted some kind of empiricism--why else talk about the historical probability that Jesus said the same thing more than once, why mention Assyrian annals, etc.?   Of course accuracy and testability are related, but if, in the name of testability, one so simplifies history that it becomes unrealistic, then I think one can question just how useful the results of that test might be.  E.g. Sanders on the Synoptic problem: it is intractable because the historical and empirical data defeat our ability to model them.  In terms of the sayings of Jesus, I understood you to be rejecting an historical reconstruction--namely that Jesus said things more than once--on the grounds that it would be hard to construct an accurate test.  I was questioning whether the desire for a testable model should be allowed to overturn the complex realities of history.  To use your terms, I suppose I was questioning whether you were being empirical enough; or to use my terms, whether you were letting a desire for certainty override historical accuracy.  

                          What if the historical reality is more complex than our simplified models can accurately reflect?

                          .. The key is in your word "accurately." How can we increase the accuracy? How can we compare the accuracies of rival models?

                          Exactly. Put bluntly (crudely, generally etc., I hope not offensively), I am not convinced that "Jesus only said things once", "sayings do not need context" and "that all similarities can only be explained by copying" do much for accuracy.  

                          At what point do we decide that lack of clarity is preferable to the certainty of a model that doesn't have much contact with reality?

                          Your use of "certainty" strikes me as odd. I suppose what you mean is "logically coherent" or "rational"?
                          BTW,  "contact with reality" is what I mean by "test". If a model does not have much contact with reality, then I don't care how rational or logical it is (the trouble probably lies in unwarranted assumptions).

                          We obviously have to deal with "lack of clarity." Maybe I have a problem with "lack of clarity," and you don't. Then I will want to find ways to do away with lack of clarity, but you will be comfortable with it. Robert McC. Adams, (former?) director of the Smithsonian and major professor of my major professor, once wrote of the need for tolerance of ambiguity. I agree that one must sometimes put up with ambiguity and a lack of clarity, but that is not my goal state as a (wannabe) scholar. My understanding is that one of the goals of CrossTalk is to reduce the extent of ambiguity and lack of clarity.

                          I agree with Adams (and Sanders re Synoptic problem).  Of course reducing ambiguity increasing clarity are excellent goals (isn't that what we are trying to do here?).... just as long as we don't ignore historical messiness in the process.  

                          (Of course these are not polar opposites though in this conversation it seems to me that going for the one may diminish the other.)  As I mentioned earlier, the idea of multiple similar-sayings in varying historical/narrative contexts (not to mention oral-literary interference) is far more likely historically.

                          As a general principle, I agree with those odds. But we need to deal with particular cases.

                          Indeed.

                           Granted it makes the HJ project exceedingly difficult, but what use are the results of a workable test if its assumed historical datum is fallacious?

                          This seems circular. I suppose what you are suggesting is that the presumably "fallacious assumed historical datum" is the idea that the sayings material is primary because the same saying appears in different narrative frames in the hands of different writers.

                          Broadly speaking, yes.  I think the frames are also a crucial part of the interpretative exercise (of course GThom has none at all...)

                          This idea is actually a hypothesis, and proceeds on the grounds of parsimony. It can be proven wrong. It merely serves as a point of departure. What is missing from our discussion is an actual use of textual evidence. We have two rival hypotheses:

                          1. that multiple similar-sayings in varying historical/narrative contexts (not to mention oral-literary interference) is far more likely historically

                          2. that the sayings material is primary because the same saying appears in different narrative frames in the hands of different writers

                          We just need a way of choosing between those alternatives in particular cases.

                          Right, assuming that we can.

                          This is why I warn my students to examine the assumptions of a given method to see if they are tilted more toward a desire for certainty rather than a genuine historical reconstruction (for what it's worth, I see this overriding desire for certainty as the underlying unifying principle of fundamentalism, whether "liberal" or "conservative").

                          I have already indicated what I think of this approach. Would you call scientists fundamentalists, then? IMHO a desire for certainty is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. It becomes bad when one's desire for that goal over-rides any consideration of appropriate method.  

                          Well said.  

                          I'm going to skip the rest of this dialogue because I have already spent far more time on it than I had planned. Our epistemologies seem to differ so radically that I can scarcely see any path of convergence.

                          I'm not sure they differ that much.  But to return to the earlier point: I am unconvinced that GThom simply because it contains sayings only is earlier.  Rather I suspect that the form of GThom owes more to the author's perception of Jesus than its antiquity.  So I repeat my question: what is it in the author's perception of Jesus that causes him to want to ignore Jesus' mighty deeds and other actions (what he did in the Temple, the people he ate with, where he lived, etc)?   And is it possible that this outlook has also heavily influenced his choice of sayings and the accuracy with which he has recorded them? Has GThom also invented sayings to suit his particular perception of Jesus?  how can we tell?


                          Rikk


                        • Rikki E. Watts
                          David, Fair comment, and I agree that the Synoptic issue is complex. You can discount the Mt tends to reduce Mark if you like (those not convinced by Sanders
                          Message 12 of 16 , Aug 5, 2000
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                            David,

                            Fair comment, and I agree that the Synoptic issue is complex. You can
                            discount the Mt tends to reduce Mark if you like (those not convinced by
                            Sanders can do as their reconstruction permits, :-)).

                            Re "why don't NT scholars..." Probably because we are not trained social
                            theorists and don't have the time; beyond that I'm not exactly sure what you
                            have in mind so it's hard to comment in detail.

                            Generally though, the little I've done in social theory (I have a chapter in
                            my book on ideology, did undergraduate sociology, and took some lectures
                            from Giddens at Cambridge) suggests to me that there is probably as little
                            certainty in social theory as there is in our field. There have been a
                            number of biblical scholars who have run with a particular social theory
                            model only to have it pulled out from under their feet in the ensuing years.
                            I remember one classic case where I was sitting in a visiting North American
                            biblical scholar's lecture at Cambridge where he was declaiming on a
                            particular model's relevance to an OT book--he was highly regarded in OT
                            studies as au fait with various social theory models which he applied with
                            great vigor. The problem was I had just come from Giddens' social
                            anthropology class where he had demolished this particular model, noting its
                            problem ridden assumptions and inadequacies. Of course the biblical scholar
                            had no idea--social theory is not his field--but here he was holding forth
                            with great confidence and his bib studs students eating it up like manna
                            from heaven. A salutary moment indeed. If social theorists are arguing
                            among themselves what hope is there for NT scholars who are trying to apply
                            their models? Very tricky business. So what do we do? I guess we can
                            start by learning humility.

                            Blessings
                            Rikk

                            > From: "David C. Hindley" <dhindley@...>
                            > Reply-To: crosstalk2@egroups.com
                            > Date: Fri, 4 Aug 2000 23:59:06 -0400
                            > To: <crosstalk2@egroups.com>, <Blind.Copy.Receiver@...>
                            > Subject: RE: [XTalk] Re Sayings priority..
                            >
                            > Richard Mallet asked:
                            >
                            >>> I thought that the idea of Markan priority was based on the idea
                            > that Matt. and Luke expanded on Mark, and that Mark represented the
                            > most primitive version? If this is not the case, on what basis do we
                            > decide which came first?<<
                            >
                            > That's the rub. Much thought has been, and is being, expended by those
                            > attempting to determine the directions an editor might take an
                            > existing tradition that s/he has taken over. It was bad enough that E.
                            > P. Sanders (_The tendencies of the synoptic tradition_, 1969) was
                            > unable to confirm that any specific trend can be unambiguously
                            > identified in our written gospels, yet people still go on asserting
                            > that this gospel author expanded or compacted that gospel author's
                            > work, as if the matter was as plain as day.
                            >
                            > The recent interest in anthropology among NT scholars, I think, is
                            > partly due to a desire to determine whether these kinds of tendencies
                            > can be deduced from human behavior. The linguists, starting with
                            > Saussure, offered language as the universal key to understanding the
                            > way information is passed on and made use of. The problem with this is
                            > that only some human behaviors are directly related to our biology,
                            > while a much larger part of them are functions of functions of other
                            > functions, far removed from their basic biological roots. These
                            > exhibit themselves as social traits that can vary significantly from
                            > one culture to the next.
                            >
                            > What I would ask myself is this: Why have NT scholars not taken the
                            > initiative and designed cross-cultural *experiments* as a means to
                            > deduce what, if any, communicative traits really do exist?
                            > Psychologists and sociologists, for instance, have devised some
                            > ingenious experiments that do exactly this kind of thing. Do NT
                            > scholars have access to the same kinds of resources that scholars
                            > engaged in psychology or sociology do, and I mean student bodies from
                            > which to recruit research associates or upon which to conduct the
                            > experiments? Most likely the groundwork has already been laid in the
                            > fields of linguistics, communications and biology. All they need to do
                            > is redirect some of that energy towards questions relevant to biblical
                            > studies.
                            >
                            > Just my 2 centavos. What do Professors Watts or Schacht think?
                            >
                            > Regards,
                            >
                            > Dave Hindley
                            > Cleveland, Ohio, USA
                            >
                            > PS: Bob, I seem to recall you bemoaning something similar to this not
                            > so long ago. <g>
                            >
                            >
                            >
                            >
                            >
                            > The XTalk Home Page is http://www.xtalk.org
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                            >
                          • David C. Hindley
                            ... an historical reconstruction--namely that Jesus said things more than once--on the grounds that it would be hard to construct an accurate test. I was
                            Message 13 of 16 , Aug 5, 2000
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                              Rikki Watts said in response to Bob Schacht:

                              >>In terms of the sayings of Jesus, I understood you to be rejecting
                              an historical reconstruction--namely that Jesus said things more than
                              once--on the grounds that it would be hard to construct an accurate
                              test. I was questioning whether the desire for a testable model
                              should be allowed to overturn the complex realities of history.<<

                              Over on Synoptic-L, about a year and a half ago, Stephen C. Carlson
                              offered the results of a program he wrote. The program determined the
                              number of possible solutions for the synoptic problem. He determined
                              there to be "1488 viable, documentary synoptic source theory types
                              that employ at most two hypothetical documents," or "4972 viable
                              documentary solutions including those with supererogatory documents
                              [i.e., hypothetical documents that are not strictly necessary to
                              explain the literary interrelationship between two of the synoptics,
                              and have left only one descendant]." Stephen expressed a clear
                              preference for solutions that allow comparison between related
                              documents, as these are (in theory) verifiable by means of comparison.
                              At the time I thought this was too restrictive an approach since the
                              records available to us for such comparisons are subject to the
                              accidents of preservation, a natural process that does not take
                              convenience of verification into consideration.

                              >>I am unconvinced that GThom simply because it contains sayings only
                              is earlier. Rather I suspect that the form of GThom owes more to the
                              author's perception of Jesus than its antiquity. So I repeat my
                              question: what is it in the author's perception of Jesus that causes
                              him to want to ignore Jesus' mighty deeds and other actions (what he
                              did in the Temple, the people he ate with, where he lived, etc)? And
                              is it possible that this outlook has also heavily influenced his
                              choice of sayings and the accuracy with which he has recorded them?
                              Has GThom also invented sayings to suit his particular perception of
                              Jesus? how can we tell?<<

                              Traditions exist to serve a function, and I am inclined to think that
                              the function of a tradition will control the forms the tradition takes
                              in the course of its transmission. Traditions are there to meet the
                              needs of the users of the tradition, right? But the needs that
                              influence that preservation process are constantly changing. The needs
                              of the first (Jewish) followers are going to be different than those
                              of the gentiles who became associated with them. The sayings
                              traditions do not necessarily *have* to be the product of Jesus, or
                              even first preserved by his immediate followers (a possibility that
                              Kloppenborg specifically leaves open in _The Formation of Q_, 317ff).

                              They could have been introduced at any point to meet the needs of a
                              subgroup, and which other subgroups found attractive in their own
                              right, and on it goes. In short, the group using the sayings preserved
                              in GOT may have had needs completely different from group(s) that
                              preserved the sayings in the synoptic gospels. To the former, Jesus
                              did not need to perform mighty deeds, or have a ministry, etc. To the
                              latter, Jesus *did* need to do so. The sayings themselves are related,
                              true, but where were they introduced, and why? Let's face it, they are
                              not particularly "deep" or profound. What function can we say they
                              served, without having to resort to weak answers such as "the
                              edification the believers in times of crisis" (how would such sayings
                              edify anyone, really?), etc.?

                              Regards,

                              Dave Hindley
                              Cleveland, Ohio, USA
                            • Bob Schacht
                              ... In general, I m in favor of this! ... It might be helpful to differentiate between my attempt to summarize a widespread view of the priority of sayings,
                              Message 14 of 16 , Aug 5, 2000
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                                At 10:31 AM 8/5/00 -0700, Rikki E. Watts wrote:
                                Bob, sorry about the editing, I'm trying to cut down on pages of old text.

                                In general, I'm in favor of this!

                                 Just to reconnect: this was originally about the suggestion that GThom was earlier because it contained only sayings.  I asked whether or not Jesus' actions should also be considered.  I recall your response was that it seemed to be the sayings that were fixed while the narrative frames changed.  I countered by suggesting that Jesus could well have said the "same" thing in a variety of different settings. 

                                It might be helpful to differentiate between my attempt to summarize a widespread view of the priority of sayings, and what I myself think about such things. My explanation about the same sayings appearing in different narrative contexts was part of my attempt to summarize this widespread view. I have not drawn any fixed conclusions about that hypothesis yet, but I think that it represents an important datum that must be explained.

                                Ok, so we are agreed that Jesus probably repeated phrases and sayings on numerous occasions and in a range of settings?

                                Yes, personally, I think that is likely.
                                ... This goes to your other question (see below) about the "author's perception of Jesus." If we perceive Jesus as Son of God, who had his script all worked out by the time he was five years old, then there is no reason for his teaching on any given subject to evolve. However, if we perceive Jesus as purely human, then I think it is more natural to suppose that over the short span of 3 years, his message would have evolved as he worked it out. ...

                                Why not a bit of both: could not Jesus at the outset of his preaching career (I assume the five year old bit is some tongue-in-cheek fun) have had a general sense of his mission and yet also have reflected on this and developed its implications as he progressed?


                                Personally, yes, this is plausible.
                                 How much development took place is going to be very difficult to tell.  One might still have to admit the possibility that he had the substantial part of his message in place by the time he began. 
                                Besides, do you really want to argue that Jesus would say exactly the same thing, regardless of context,
                                and would in no way alter his message to suit the context, i.e. Hebrews 13:8?
                                Hardly.  But surely there are many contexts (of teaching or conflict) where saying the same sort of thing would not have been inappropriate--how often do you think Jesus might have had occasion to say that people were not made for Sabbath but Sabbath for people?   (I'm sorry, I might be a bit thick, but I can't see what has Heb 13.8 got to do with anything).


                                Heb. 13: 8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

                                In this view, it would seem there would be no evolution of Jesus' thinking, no development of his message, and context would be irrelevant. Or is that reading too much into the text?
                                ...[Rikk]:
                                I should have thought that on the basis of Wittgenstein's language game that social contexts (i.e. action and narrative) are essential ingredients to any hermeneutic.
                                [Bob]: Well, I would agree with that. But then we have the puzzle about why Matthew and Luke seem to freely re-assign sayings to different narrative frames. Would not Wittgenstein argue that message and context cohere, so that one cannot change one without changing the other? But if one looks at the synoptics, the connection between message and context seems somewhat arbitrary.

                                [Rikk?]: But this is the assumption I'm challenging: could not Jesus have had numerous occasions on which to declare that God preferred mercy and not sacrifice?


                                Of course.
                                  Message and context would cohere (presumably Jesus wouldn't have said it if it didn't fit the occasion), the general language game be the same, though the specific settings different.  Is there something here I'm missing?  On the other hand, would you mind giving some examples in the Synoptics where the link between message and context seems arbitrary?   
                                Try Mark 4:21-25, which consist of two pairs of aphorisms. According to The Five Gospels, p. 56, each of these aphorisms also occur in Q in 4 different contexts, which suggests (according to T5G) that they once circulated independently of each other. They also point out that three of the aphorisms also  appear in G Thomas, again in different contexts.
                                Let's go with your hypothesis that Jesus said the same thing many times, and that Matthew and Luke did not always copy Mark, but had access to independent testimony about the same saying uttered in different contexts. Is that what you want to argue? But the verbatim agreement between Mark, Matthew and Luke in so many places argues that if Matt & Luke weren't copying Mark, then at least all three were using the same source (The triple tradition) much of the time. You would then have to argue that there was more than one tradition involved, and that for some reason each Synoptic writer chose a different example from the traditions available to them rather than choosing the same example. I guess what I'm asking is, what source critical model are you using? If you are using something other than Mark and Q as the earliest independent sources, what model are you using?
                                Great question ...  the Synoptic problem: now the can opens!  Well, I think Sanders is onto something in that the process is probably a lot more complex than simple copying (you probably agree).  So at this point I'm agnostic as to any particular model.  I'm sure there are some (many) places where some kind of literary dependence is happening.  On the other hand, what did this look like (cf. Downing)?   And what if there is a very early Greek sayings tradition (the Hellenists?) with all the divergences appertaining thereto (cf. Bailey on informal but controlled oral tradition)?  But to get back to the original point: I think you were suggesting that the sayings are more important than the narrative setting given that sometimes the narrative setting seemed to change.


                                Please amend that from "you were suggesting" to a reference to the viewpoint of critical scholarship that I was trying to summarize regarding the priority of the sayings material.
                                [Rikk]:  My response would be that the "changes" to the narrative could be explained on a number of bases ranging from the narratives describe two different moments through to the same moment but with the changes being editorial and/or not significant enough to cause concern.  We'd have to examine each case in its own right.  My point is that an absolutist "someone must have copied from someone else" approach when considering similar/"exact" sayings may not be the best history.  Other factors could give rise to similar sayings in different narrative frames.


                                The next quote is from one of your previous posts:
                                 To return to the original GThom issue, one wonders how anyone could hope to understand Jesus with only sayings to go by?
                                [Bob]: Well, Stevan Davies, erstwhile CrossTalker, had that hope. I think what he wanted was the Teaching of Jesus in a form like Euclidean Geometry, all neatly laid out in axioms, and assumptions, logically knit together in an edifice of understanding. One does not need much narrative context to understand Euclidean Geometry, although story problems can be useful as illustrations. The point being, of course, that Euclidean Geometry transcends narrative context, and consequently can be applied to an infinite number of specific contexts. Do you really want to argue that understanding of Jesus' sayings depends on narrative context, and that therefore his teachings are relative rather than absolute?

                                [Rikk]: Yes I do think, as a general rule, that understanding Jesus' sayings involves appreciating their context.  (I'm not sure I understand where the "relative" rather than "absolute" comes from... all language is context dependent is it not?  Maybe I'm not clear on what you mean by relative here..  )


                                I'm referring to that Hebrews 13:8 thing again. Perhaps this is a 'straw man': The reference here is not to critical scholarship as to those in my acquaintance who argue that Jesus' message is "eternal," which sounds like an argument against the importance of context to me.  Sorry to keep changing perspectives on you. Part of me wants to agree with that, and "in some sense" (a phrase that gives Crossan fits) must be true, else why would we still be discussing him?
                                [Rikk]: Surely the key insight of the so-called new quest is that Jesus' Jewish context matters; I find it difficult to hold to this and at the same time grant so much importance to GThom with its utterly contextless sayings when in fact, stripped of their context, the opportunities for misreading the sayings increase by orders of magnitude.
                                [Bob]: I'm sympathetic to that concern.
                                [Rikk]: Your question about testing also raises a more fundamental issue for me, namely, what is it that drives the exercise--the desire for a workable test ("how can we know?") or for an historically accurate reconstruction; i.e. to put it crudely, certainty or history?
                                [Bob]: I'm sorry, this seems to me to be an utterly false dichotomy and the reddest of red herrings. If our quest for the truth about the historical Jesus is to be something other than a matter of personal taste (de gustibus non disputandum est),  we must have some means of choosing between alternative interpretations. There is always the issue of how we know what we know. CrossTalk has a history of relying on empiricism to settle debates-- that is, the key question is, what evidence do you have to support your position? While evidence is usually conceived as textual evidence, as our discussion with Crossan showed, we are willing to consider other kinds of relevant evidence as well (e.g., archaeology). But personal preference is not usually considered to be persuasive. In other words, CrossTalk since its inception has attempted to promote objectivism rather than subjectivism. To me, "accuracy" and "testability" are inextricably linked, because I do not know how to measure accuracy in any other way.

                                [Rikk]: I think you've misunderstood me.  I should have thought it was clear that I accepted some kind of empiricism--why else talk about the historical probability that Jesus said the same thing more than once, why mention Assyrian annals, etc.?   Of course accuracy and testability are related, but if, in the name of testability, one so simplifies history that it becomes unrealistic, then I think one can question just how useful the results of that test might be.


                                Thanks for the clarification! But why assume that testability requires oversimplification?
                                 E.g. Sanders on the Synoptic problem: it is intractable because the historical and empirical data defeat our ability to model them.


                                I'd prefer that this be phrased "have to date defeated," so as not to raise the flag of surrender just yet.
                                 In terms of the sayings of Jesus, I understood you to be rejecting an historical reconstruction--namely that Jesus said things more than once--on the grounds that it would be hard to construct an accurate test.


                                Whoa! First of all, let's again differentiate between "me" and the viewpoint I was trying to summarize [i.e., my attempt to summarize for you the argument for the priority of the sayings tradition.] Secondly, neither I nor the viewpoint I was summarizing necessarily reject the hypothesis that Jesus said things more than once. Third, I object to your implication that the  "Jesus said things more than once" hypothesis is the only "historical reconstruction" being examined. As I have often said before on this list, just because something is plausible doesn't make it so, and doesn't mean that we should apply it in every possible instance.  It sounds to me like you're trying to make "Jesus said things more than once" into a "law" with a level of certainty attached to it that you elsewhere seem to argue against.

                                Let's return to Mark 4:21-25. As I understand your explanation, on the general principle that "Jesus said things more than once," that Mark 4:21-25 represents one occasion, and that Matthew 5:15, 7:25, and 10:26 represent 2-3 other occasions, etc. We can also consider the parallels within the parallel: Matthew 5:15 & 10:26 // Luke 8:16-17-- is this one occasion, or two? The JSem explanation is that these are 4 separate sayings that circulated independently, and were grouped together by the evangelists in ways that do not reflect history.
                                 [Rikk]: I was questioning whether the desire for a testable model should be allowed to overturn the complex realities of history.  To use your terms, I suppose I was questioning whether you were being empirical enough; or to use my terms, whether you were letting a desire for certainty override historical accuracy. 
                                What if the historical reality is more complex than our simplified models can accurately reflect?

                                .. [Bob]: The key is in your word "accurately." How can we increase the accuracy? How can we compare the accuracies of rival models?

                                [Rikk]: Exactly. Put bluntly (crudely, generally etc., I hope not offensively), I am not convinced that "Jesus only said things once", "sayings do not need context" and "that all similarities can only be explained by copying" do much for accuracy.

                                Whoa! I never suggested that "Jesus only said things once." What I wrote, attempting to recapitulate the perspective articulated by the Jesus Seminar, is that when there is *verbatim agreement* between two sayings (and length of the saying is certainly a factor here),  that increases the likelihood that the two accounts are taken from the same source. Also, I did not mean to seriously suggest that "sayings do not need context." I was only asking what it meant when exactly the same saying appears in a number of different contexts. These psuedo-quotes (none of them are actual quotes), especially the last, are a parody of the arguments I was trying to articulate. "That all similarities can only be explained by copying" is certainly more than a blunt or crude psuedo-quote; it is a distortion and misrepresentation of what I wrote. In trying to be more fair to the position of the JSem that I was trying to articulate, it would be more accurate to write that "Extensive verbatim agreements are likely to indicate a common source."
                                 [Rikk]: At what point do we decide that lack of clarity is preferable to the certainty of a model that doesn't have much contact with reality?
                                [Bob]: Your use of "certainty" strikes me as odd. I suppose what you mean is "logically coherent" or "rational"?
                                BTW,  "contact with reality" is what I mean by "test". If a model does not have much contact with reality, then I don't care how rational or logical it is (the trouble probably lies in unwarranted assumptions).

                                We obviously have to deal with "lack of clarity." Maybe I have a problem with "lack of clarity," and you don't. Then I will want to find ways to do away with lack of clarity, but you will be comfortable with it. Robert McC. Adams, (former?) director of the Smithsonian and major professor of my major professor, once wrote of the need for tolerance of ambiguity. I agree that one must sometimes put up with ambiguity and a lack of clarity, but that is not my goal state as a (wannabe) scholar. My understanding is that one of the goals of CrossTalk is to reduce the extent of ambiguity and lack of clarity.

                                [Rikk]: I agree with Adams (and Sanders re Synoptic problem).  Of course reducing ambiguity increasing clarity are excellent goals (isn't that what we are trying to do here?).... just as long as we don't ignore historical messiness in the process. 
                                [previous Rikk]: (Of course these are not polar opposites though in this conversation it seems to me that going for the one may diminish the other.)  As I mentioned earlier, the idea of multiple similar-sayings in varying historical/narrative contexts (not to mention oral-literary interference) is far more likely historically.

                                [Bob]: As a general principle, I agree with those odds. But we need to deal with particular cases.

                                [Rikk]: Indeed.
                                 Granted it makes the HJ project exceedingly difficult, but what use are the results of a workable test if its assumed historical datum is fallacious?

                                [Bob]: This seems circular. I suppose what you are suggesting is that the presumably "fallacious assumed historical datum" is the idea that the sayings material is primary because the same saying appears in different narrative frames in the hands of different writers.

                                [Rikk]: Broadly speaking, yes.  I think the frames are also a crucial part of the interpretative exercise (of course GThom has none at all...)
                                [Bob]: This idea is actually a hypothesis, and proceeds on the grounds of parsimony. It can be proven wrong. It merely serves as a point of departure. What is missing from our discussion is an actual use of textual evidence. We have two rival hypotheses:

                                1. that multiple similar-sayings in varying historical/narrative contexts (not to mention oral-literary interference) is far more likely historically
                                2. that the sayings material is primary because the same saying appears in different narrative frames in the hands of different writers
                                We just need a way of choosing between those alternatives in particular cases.

                                [Rikk]: Right, assuming that we can.
                                This is why I warn my students to examine the assumptions of a given method to see if they are tilted more toward a desire for certainty rather than a genuine historical reconstruction (for what it's worth, I see this overriding desire for certainty as the underlying unifying principle of fundamentalism, whether "liberal" or "conservative").

                                [Bob]: I have already indicated what I think of this approach. Would you call scientists fundamentalists, then? IMHO a desire for certainty is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. It becomes bad when one's desire for that goal over-rides any consideration of appropriate method. 

                                [Rikk]:Well said. 
                                [Bob]: I'm going to skip the rest of this dialogue because I have already spent far more time on it than I had planned. Our epistemologies seem to differ so radically that I can scarcely see any path of convergence.
                                [Rikk]: I'm not sure they differ that much. 



                                But to return to the earlier point: I am unconvinced that GThom simply because it contains sayings only is earlier.  Rather I suspect that the form of GThom owes more to the author's perception of Jesus than its antiquity.  So I repeat my question: what is it in the author's perception of Jesus that causes him to want to ignore Jesus' mighty deeds and other actions (what he did in the Temple, the people he ate with, where he lived, etc)?   And is it possible that this outlook has also heavily influenced his choice of sayings and the accuracy with which he has recorded them? Has GThom also invented sayings to suit his particular perception of Jesus?  how can we tell?

                                This would be a good question to direct to Stevan Davies, who knows far more about GThomas than I will ever know.

                                Bob

                              • Bob Schacht
                                ... Is there is support for this position in the record? If Jesus *did* repeat himself, we would not expect his supporters to report every single instance, but
                                Message 15 of 16 , Aug 8, 2000
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                                  At 05:57 PM 8/3/00 +0000, Rikki E. Watts wrote:
                                  ... Isn't it highly likely that as a peripatetic speaker Jesus
                                  repeated himself, not just tens of times but even scores if not more...?

                                  Is there is support for this position in the record? If Jesus *did* repeat himself, we would not expect his supporters to report every single instance, but we might expect that they would report a few instances where the saying was repeated more than once.

                                  In testing this proposition, I shall use The Five Gospels (T5G) as my basic database, starting with the index of red and pink sayings on pp. 549 sqq.

                                  Certain ideas appear to be repeated. For example, 18 instances of the "By their fruit" saying, which T5G attributes to Q and GThomas, are listed in Matthew, Luke, and Thomas -- i.e., about 6 times in each gospel-- although it does not appear in Mark or John. However, these are not really 18 separate equivalent cases. The listing (The Five Gospels, p. 550) atomizes a smaller number of parallel passages on the same subject: Matt 7:16-20//Luke 6:43-45//Thomas 45:1-4, plus Matt 12:33-35. They rate only Matt 7:16b, Luke 6:44b, and Thomas 45:1a as pink, relegating all the other instances to gray or black.
                                  So for repetition within the same source, we are left with only Matt 7:16-20 and 12:33-35. These work together plausibly as a re-statement of the same idea, i.e., Jesus repeating himself, but T5G does not consider the second pericope demonstrably historical because it is stated only in a common-sense form that anyone could have said (p. 188).

                                  Love of enemies (QLuke 6:27-28//Matt 5:43-48, and again in Luke 6:32-35) is another possibility. In this case, T5G rated the first red, and the second pink. This chapter of Luke contains many short pericopes, and while Luke 6:32, 35 are linked by narrative, they are not linked narratively to 6:27-28. At face value,
                                  the second passage could be read as an elaboration or repetition of the first. The passages are analyzed in T5G on pp. 145-147. First, the general idea of "Love your enemies" received one of the highest historicity ratings by the JSem. Second, T5G does not really consider the hypothesis that the sayings constitute a repetition. Matthew actually links to both passages in Luke, with Matt 5:46//Luke 6:32 providing the bridge. Therefore, even though the two sayings are not narratively linked in Luke, they might be narratively linked in Matthew, although one could argue that Matt 5:43-45 stand independently from 46-48, as two statements with a common theme placed side by side.

                                  I don't have time for a complete analysis, but suffice it to say that it is difficult to find genuine repetitions of the same saying within one gospel, but easy to find "repetitions" (if that is what they are) between gospels, albeit not necessarily in the same context. Can anyone else find better examples of repetition within the same gospel?

                                  Bob


                                  Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
                                  Northern Arizona University
                                  Flagstaff, AZ
                                • Antti V J Mustakallio
                                  What was Jesus basic attitude to the Jewish covenant belief of his time? Did he share the common contemporary belief? Did this belief function for Jesus as
                                  Message 16 of 16 , Oct 14, 2000
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                                    What was Jesus' basic attitude to the Jewish covenant belief of
                                    his time? Did he share the common contemporary belief? Did this belief
                                    function for Jesus as the basic and self-evident conviction assumed in
                                    discussions and disputes, or did it not?
                                    These questions were asked by Finnish scholar Tom Holmén in his
                                    dissertation "Jesus and Jewish Covenant Thinking" (Turku 1999, pages 17
                                    and 18). Holmén's final conclusion about the subject is simple: "Jesus did
                                    not share this common and basic covenant idea." (p. 343) Before saying
                                    anything about how and why this result was concluded, I leave these
                                    questions to list members for commenting.



                                    Antti Mustakallio
                                    ungergraduate

                                    Department of exegetics,
                                    University of Helsinki
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