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Re: [XTalk] Re: the jesus mysteries

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  • Rikki E. Watts
    Actually, just to set the record straight we who are accustomed to studying comparative religion do not in fact all share Mr. Jerez point of view. There are
    Message 1 of 29 , Sep 30, 2000
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      Actually, just to set the record straight "we who are accustomed to studying
      comparative religion" do not in fact all share Mr. Jerez' point of view.
      There are serious historical scholars who would reject quite firmly the
      notion that early Christians mythologized Jesus (I could name a couple from
      Cambridge and Oxford Universities for starters). Whatever else, the genre
      of the gospels is hardly mythology--as I would hope that someone who really
      was accustomed to studying comparative religion would recognize.

      Rikk Watts

      > From: "Antonio Jerez" <antonio.jerez@...>
      > Reply-To: crosstalk2@egroups.com
      > Date: Sat, 30 Sep 2000 18:28:33 +0200
      > To: <crosstalk2@egroups.com>
      > Subject: Re: [XTalk] Re: the jesus mysteries
      >
      >
      > Leon Albert wrote:
      >
      >> Suggesting Socrates as a midrashic creation of Plato rather side
      >> steps the issue into a debate over the histoicity of Socrates.
      >> With respect to Jesus, we know there was a tradition of midrashic
      >> interpretation (witness the rabbinic literature, the Dead Sea
      >> Scrolls, Paul, and the other epistle writers, and the post-
      >> Marken gospels).
      >
      > There is no question that the Jesus we find in the NT has been
      > developed in a highly "midrashic" fashion. But does this necessarily
      > mean that there never was a real Jesus. Of course not. We who are
      > acustomed to studying comparative religion know that this is a process
      > that most religious founders go through. The later Buddhists mythologized
      > Gautama in much the same way as the christians did with Jesus. The later
      > muslims did the same with Muhammed. The examples could be multiplied.
      > We see the same phenomenon at work today with figures like Sai Baba.
      >
      > Best wishes
      >
      > Antonio Jerez
      >
      >
      >
      >
      > The XTalk Home Page is http://www.xtalk.org
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    • Ron Price
      Albert (?) wrote, ... Albert, Are you referring to me? I owe nothing to G.A.Wells, who misunderstands the NT and has written at least three books trying to
      Message 2 of 29 , Oct 1, 2000
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        Albert (?) wrote,

        >For better or worse, I have been very impressed by the theories
        >of E. Doherty and R. Price (admittedly updated Wells).

        Albert,
        Are you referring to me?
        I owe nothing to G.A.Wells, who misunderstands the NT and has written
        at least three books trying to argue that Jesus never existed.
        There is not a shadow of doubt in my mind that there was a historical
        Jesus, though most attempted portrayals fail to make sufficient
        allowance for the bias in the NT presentation.

        Ron Price

        Weston-on-Trent, Derby, UK

        e-mail: ron.price@...

        Web site: http://homepage.virgin.net/ron.price/index.htm
      • Stephen C. Carlson
        ... No, I believe he s referring to Robert M. Price. His bio is found at http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/robert_price/price-bio.html Stephen Carlson --
        Message 3 of 29 , Oct 1, 2000
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          At 09:23 AM 10/1/00 +0100, Ron Price wrote:
          >>For better or worse, I have been very impressed by the theories
          >>of E. Doherty and R. Price (admittedly updated Wells).
          >
          >Albert,
          > Are you referring to me?

          No, I believe he's referring to Robert M. Price. His bio is
          found at http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/robert_price/price-bio.html

          Stephen Carlson
          --
          Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
          Synoptic Problem Home Page http://www.mindspring.com/~scarlson/synopt/
          "Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs chant the words." Shujing 2.35
        • Antonio Jerez
          ... I am a bit intrigued by this message. Is Mr. Watts trying to argue that there is not any midrashisation of the Jesus figure in the gospels? Is there not
          Message 4 of 29 , Oct 1, 2000
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            Ricki Watts wrote:

            > Actually, just to set the record straight "we who are accustomed to studying
            > comparative religion" do not in fact all share Mr. Jerez' point of view.
            > There are serious historical scholars who would reject quite firmly the
            > notion that early Christians mythologized Jesus (I could name a couple from
            > Cambridge and Oxford Universities for starters). Whatever else, the genre
            > of the gospels is hardly mythology--as I would hope that someone who really
            > was accustomed to studying comparative religion would recognize.

            I am a bit intrigued by this message. Is Mr. Watts trying to argue that there is
            not any midrashisation of the Jesus figure in the gospels? Is there not the slightest
            hint of mothologization? I don't doubt that a few "serious" historical scholars at
            Cambridge or Oxford question this - just as there exists christian "serious" geologists
            in the USA who still argue that the earth 6000 years old and that the universe was
            created in six days.

            As to the specific genre of the gospels that is a question that is debated endlessly. If Mr.
            Watts reads my message carefully again he will find that I am not arguing that the gospels
            are PURE mythology, in the same way as the Mithras or Osiris myth. What I am arguing
            is that the gospels have a historical core that has been highly developed in a typical "midrashic"
            jewish fashion. Call it mythologization if you want. The same phenomenon can be found in the
            "biographies" about Buddha. The parallels are often striking. The "midrash" in the synoptics of
            Jesus temptation by the devil has a counterpart in Buddhas temptation by the "devil" Mara just
            before his illumination. This is sacred myth that has as it purpose to show that the Hero has
            not fallen prey to the evil force but is now prepared to carry out his mission. Or is Mr. Watts going
            to argue that the early Christians and Buddhists were just trying to report history when they told
            us about Jesus fight with Satan or Buddhas fight with Mara? Or is he going to claim that the Christian
            story is true history while the Buddhist story is just mythology since any Christian should know that
            Mara doesn't exist?
            After years on this list talking with some highly intelligent people (and some less intelligent) I thought
            all of us who are left were agreed that there is "midrash" and mythologization in the gospels, not the
            least in GJohn. I thought the way forward was not to go back to ground zero and question this
            altogether but to discuss what exactly in the gospels may be history and what may be "midrash" or
            mythologization.

            Best wishes

            Antonio Jerez
            Göteborg, Sweden
          • Rikki E. Watts
            Antonio, What are we to do with you? You re up to your old tricks again, :-). You offer an inaccurate generalization, and when called to account, you respond
            Message 5 of 29 , Oct 2, 2000
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              Antonio,

              What are we to do with you? You're up to your old tricks again, :-). You
              offer an inaccurate generalization, and when called to account, you respond
              not with a reasoned defense or definition of terms but merely repeat the
              very statement under contention ("I thought all of us who are left were
              agreed"), launch an ad hominem attack (this time on apparently unintelligent
              professors at Cambridge and Oxford), and then subtly try to shift your
              position (you were challenged on your claim that Jesus was "highly"
              mythologized etc. but try to recast it as "at least a slight hint" and
              "certainly in John"--who in fact doesn't even mention your primary example,
              Jesus' temptation. Bit of a back-pedal from your rather more bold gambit,
              wouldn't you say?).

              First, to equate mythology with Midrash is simply wrong (and which I might
              have ignored if you didn't try to suggest it was scholarly consensus "we
              who are accustomed to studying ..."). So no thank you, I'd rather not "Call
              it mythologization if you want"--that's what you implied all good scholars
              were doing and I'm calling you on it because they don't.

              Second, Midrash in all but its most jejune sense is precisely a commentary
              on ancient scripture and never involved the creation of episodes which were
              then presented as recent history. This is why Philip Alexander, director of
              the Hebrew Studies Centre at Oxford (probably an intelligent person), was so
              devastating in his critique of NT scholars who use this language of the
              gospels. So whether the gospel writers create stories about the recent past
              or not, it is wrong, as a number of specialists recognize, to call this
              Midrash, and hence my "setting the record straight".

              Third, don't worry, I didn't think you thought the Gospels were pure
              mythology. I'm taking you to task because you stated that Jesus was
              'highly' mythologized and given what I know of anthropology this seems most
              unlikely. Myth concerns relating in symbolic and imaginative language the
              fundamental structures upon which a given culture rests, generally told in
              terms of events from the earliest time, and dealing with mythic time which
              is qualitatively different and discontinuous from ordinary, existential time
              (so Eliade). It is hard to see how Jesus is "highly" mythologized under
              that definition. Are you perhaps thinking of Jesus' healings? But
              Seutonius describes Vespasian as healing a blind man through the application
              of spittle during a visit to Egypt. Would you also call this mythologizing?
              Of course it isn't. It might be a fabrication, or something peculiar might
              have happened, or perhaps more likely it might have been a piece of
              political propaganda (at least Vespasian seems to think it was "arranged"
              and was so it seems a little embarrassed), but it is hardly mythologizing.

              But you've given us an example: Jesus' temptation when he encounters a
              powerful opposing spiritual entity. But in what sense is that "highly"
              mythologized or midrashic? You seem surprised to think that people who fast
              for long periods regularly report spiritual encounters. I know of some
              first nations people, some Africans, and some Western Christians who have
              fasted for lengthy periods and they commonly speak of a heightened spiritual
              sense and spiritual encounters. That the Buddha or Jesus should have had
              similar encounters is more likely to be the result of fasting and isolation
              as they wrestled through some issues involving deeply held convictions than
              some kind of later adaptation to fit a generic and highly reductionist
              putative hero myth (this sounds like you've been reading a certain
              Californian popularizer). Now you may or may not believe that some kind of
              spiritual encounter happened, but I fail to see how the gospel accounts of
              Jesus' temptation can be described as "highly" mythologized or midrashic, at
              least in any technically accurate sense. If your doctrinaire naturalism
              forces you to deny something you can't explain in the Gospels or the Buddha,
              fine. But please don't dress up your evident ideological skepticism in
              scholarly garb, especially when it's the wrong garb. And that is my point:
              what provoked my response was the cavalier and somewhat pompous way you used
              these terms and then tried to suggest that this was agreed by "all the
              people who knew."

              Which brings me to my last point. Sadly, but not unexpectedly based on your
              past contributions to this list, when challenged you revert to type by
              reducing the issue to the black and white world of a Hop-a-Long Cassidy
              children's Western with all right-thinking people agreeing with Antonio and
              anybody who doesn't being some kind of fundamentalist fool. This is simply
              an ad hominem attack--all the more ironic in that you misunderstood my
              criticism (you apparently assumed I was discussing historicity, whereas I
              was challenging your use of literary categories). I take strong exception
              to your likening some fine Cambridge and Oxford academics to certain
              American pseudo-scholars. These people are my friends, I know their work,
              they are well-published, highly respected in their fields (which may be why
              they teach at these universities) and frankly I find your comparison,
              especially when you are the one whose scholarship is sloppy, churlish and
              rude. I've taken exception to this tendency of yours before, but you seem
              not to have noticed. So, I put you on notice: I will continue to do so
              until you realize that there is no room on this list for this kind of
              boorish intellectual racism. Ideas are invalid because they fail to stand
              on their own two feet, not because you happen to dislike what you
              (mistakenly) perceive to be their intellectual origins.

              I sincerely apologize to others on the list for the strength of the
              preceding paragraph, but this is not the first time that Antonio has been
              reprimanded for this kind of unscholarly and unsavory prejudice. I for one
              do not want to see the otherwise thoughtful and respectful tone of this very
              helpful discussion list sullied by such unworthy outbursts.

              Rikk Watts.




              > From: "Antonio Jerez" <antonio.jerez@...>
              > Reply-To: crosstalk2@egroups.com
              > Date: Sun, 1 Oct 2000 19:50:08 +0200
              > To: <crosstalk2@egroups.com>
              > Subject: Re: [XTalk] Re: the jesus mysteries
              >
              >
              > Ricki Watts wrote:
              >
              >> Actually, just to set the record straight "we who are accustomed to studying
              >> comparative religion" do not in fact all share Mr. Jerez' point of view.
              >> There are serious historical scholars who would reject quite firmly the
              >> notion that early Christians mythologized Jesus (I could name a couple from
              >> Cambridge and Oxford Universities for starters). Whatever else, the genre
              >> of the gospels is hardly mythology--as I would hope that someone who really
              >> was accustomed to studying comparative religion would recognize.
              >
              > I am a bit intrigued by this message. Is Mr. Watts trying to argue that there
              > is
              > not any midrashisation of the Jesus figure in the gospels? Is there not the
              > slightest
              > hint of mothologization? I don't doubt that a few "serious" historical
              > scholars at
              > Cambridge or Oxford question this - just as there exists christian "serious"
              > geologists
              > in the USA who still argue that the earth 6000 years old and that the universe
              > was
              > created in six days.
              >
              > As to the specific genre of the gospels that is a question that is debated
              > endlessly. If Mr.
              > Watts reads my message carefully again he will find that I am not arguing that
              > the gospels
              > are PURE mythology, in the same way as the Mithras or Osiris myth. What I am
              > arguing
              > is that the gospels have a historical core that has been highly developed in a
              > typical "midrashic"
              > jewish fashion. Call it mythologization if you want. The same phenomenon can
              > be found in the
              > "biographies" about Buddha. The parallels are often striking. The "midrash" in
              > the synoptics of
              > Jesus temptation by the devil has a counterpart in Buddhas temptation by the
              > "devil" Mara just
              > before his illumination. This is sacred myth that has as it purpose to show
              > that the Hero has
              > not fallen prey to the evil force but is now prepared to carry out his
              > mission. Or is Mr. Watts going
              > to argue that the early Christians and Buddhists were just trying to report
              > history when they told
              > us about Jesus fight with Satan or Buddhas fight with Mara? Or is he going to
              > claim that the Christian
              > story is true history while the Buddhist story is just mythology since any
              > Christian should know that
              > Mara doesn't exist?
              > After years on this list talking with some highly intelligent people (and some
              > less intelligent) I thought
              > all of us who are left were agreed that there is "midrash" and mythologization
              > in the gospels, not the
              > least in GJohn. I thought the way forward was not to go back to ground zero
              > and question this
              > altogether but to discuss what exactly in the gospels may be history and what
              > may be "midrash" or
              > mythologization.
              >
              > Best wishes
              >
              > Antonio Jerez
              > Göteborg, Sweden
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              >
              > The XTalk Home Page is http://www.xtalk.org
              >
              > To subscribe to Xtalk, send an e-mail to: crosstalk2-subscribe@egroups.com
              >
              > To unsubscribe, send an e-mail to: crosstalk2-unsubscribe@egroups.com
              >
              > List managers may be contacted directly at: crosstalk2-owners@egroups.com
              >
              >
              >
            • Robert M. Schacht
              At 12:06 PM 10/02/00 , Rikki Watts wrote: ...First, to equate mythology with Midrash is simply wrong ... Second, Midrash in all but its most jejune sense is
              Message 6 of 29 , Oct 2, 2000
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                At 12:06 PM 10/02/00 , Rikki Watts wrote:
                ...First, to equate mythology with Midrash is simply wrong ...
                Second, Midrash in all but its most jejune sense is precisely a commentary
                on ancient scripture and never involved the creation of episodes which were
                then presented as recent history.  This is why Philip Alexander, director of
                the Hebrew Studies Centre at Oxford (probably an intelligent person), was so
                devastating in his critique of NT scholars who use this language of the
                gospels. ...

                Well, I'd certainly like to know more about what Alexander wrote. Lewis Reich once wrote to us (I don't have his gem available on this computer) that there was a range of 5 types of  traditional Jewish scriptural commentary, ranging from very literal to very conjectural. I think the case could be made that the book of Enoch was an extended commentary on Genesis 6. It was, as you know, quite creative. Whether all this falls under the umbrella of Midrash, or whether Midrash was but one of the categories within the 5 types Reich summarized, I can't recall for sure.


                Third, don't worry, I didn't think you thought the Gospels were pure
                mythology.  I'm taking you to task because you stated that Jesus was
                'highly' mythologized and given what I know of anthropology this seems most
                unlikely.  Myth concerns relating in symbolic and imaginative language the
                fundamental structures upon which a given culture rests, generally told in
                terms of events from the earliest time, and dealing with mythic time which
                is qualitatively different and discontinuous from ordinary, existential time
                (so Eliade). ...

                I think the topic of mythologization is a legitimate one (whether or not it involves Midrash), and I think it is quite possible for a "myth" to develop from an actual historical event. To me, the process of mythologization involves the progressive stripping from the original story some of its most unique temporal and geographical particularities. Many of the remaining elements of the story hold increasingly symbolic rather than literal meaning. I don't have Eliade with me (I'm on vacation, and only managed to bring a small portion of my library with me), so I cannot look for what he had to say about mythologization.

                I think the Gnostics tried hard to mythologize Jesus. They were never particularly comfortable with his humanity anyway. But the mainstream of the church insisted on retaining particularities of time and place (even if some of the particularities were invented, as the Jesus Seminar often claims), and resisted much of the mythologization. There was a dual theological tendency pulling at every NT text: Immanence vs. Transcendence. The mythologizers tended to side with transcendence, I think, while those who insisted on Immanence also insisted on the humanity of Jesus. We depend on the latter for most of what we know of the historical Jesus, IMHO.

                As we attempt to differentiate material about the historical Jesus, I think we might do well to understand the process of mythologization better, so as to control for whatever mythologizing tendencies there were in the literary process out of which our present texts evolved. Whether this process had anything to do with Midrash is, of course, another matter.

                Bob
              • Antonio Jerez
                ... Ricki, I don t actually think there is anything to do with me at all. I am utterly uncorregible. As to the ad hominem attacks on the unknown academics at
                Message 7 of 29 , Oct 3, 2000
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                  Ricki Watts wrote:

                  >Antonio,

                  >What are we to do with you? You're up to your old tricks again, :-). You
                  >offer an inaccurate generalization, and when called to account, you respond
                  >not with a reasoned defense or definition of terms but merely repeat the
                  >very statement under contention ("I thought all of us who are left were
                  >agreed"), launch an ad hominem attack (this time on apparently unintelligent
                  >professors at Cambridge and Oxford), and then subtly try to shift your
                  >position (you were challenged on your claim that Jesus was "highly"
                  >mythologized etc. but try to recast it as "at least a slight hint" and
                  >"certainly in John"--who in fact doesn't even mention your primary example,
                  >Jesus' temptation. Bit of a back-pedal from your rather more bold gambit,
                  >wouldn't you say?).

                  Ricki,
                  I don't actually think there is anything to do with me at all. I am utterly uncorregible.
                  As to the "ad hominem" attacks on the unknown academics at Oxford I stand by
                  my verdict - anybody who argues that there is nothing mythological in the gospels
                  must be a crank. As to my shifting my position I do not think I have done that at all.
                  I just got the impression that you were arguing that there was 0 % mythologizing in
                  the gospels and therefore asked at retorical question. I do stand by my statement
                  that the synoptics have a highly mythologized Jesus. If you turn somebody into something
                  he didn't claim to be during his lifetime (the mythological Son of Man of Daniel), invent
                  mythologized speaches (Mark 13) and have him walk on water etc etc then I think
                  the right word is "highly mythologized". John is on an even higher mythological level
                  than the synoptics, given that Jesus has become a spaceman come from Mars who
                  is going to save the world and when his mission is finished return to Mars. This jewish
                  spaceman is also allknowing, allpowerful etc etc and has little relationship to the things
                  of this world. It is hardly possible to turn a historical person more into a mythological
                  one than John does.

                  >first, to equate mythology with Midrash is simply wrong (and which I might
                  >have ignored if you didn't try to suggest it was scholarly consensus "we
                  >who are accustomed to studying ..."). So no thank you, I'd rather not "Call
                  >it mythologization if you want"--that's what you implied all good scholars
                  >were doing and I'm calling you on it because they don't.

                  So it is down to a game of semantics? Though you may have got that impression
                  I am not actually equating Midrash with myth. But sometimes "Midrash" of the
                  type we find in the gospels can be used to create mythical scenes that involve
                  Jesus. Such a case being Mark 1:12-13. This scene has associations to other Jewish
                  myths (or do you want to call them fairytales?) like the Adam myth (epigrapha "Adam
                  and Eve), the Elijah myth (1 Kings 19:5-8) and the Testament of Naphtali myth.

                  >in all but its most jejune sense is precisely a commentary
                  on ancient scripture and never involved the creation of episodes which were
                  then presented as recent history. This is why Philip Alexander, director of
                  the Hebrew Studies Centre at Oxford (probably an intelligent person), was so
                  devastating in his critique of NT scholars who use this language of the
                  gospels. So whether the gospel writers create stories about the recent past
                  or not, it is wrong, as a number of specialists recognize, to call this
                  >Midrash, and hence my "setting the record straight".

                  I knew this was coming. Yes I know that Philip Alexander does not like
                  NT scholars calling what the gospel writers are doing Midrash. But for
                  lack of a better word I use it, although putting it inside brackets.What
                  term would you like to use. You obviously disapprove about both Midrash
                  and Myth. Fairytale?

                  >Third, don't worry, I didn't think you thought the Gospels were pure
                  >mythology. I'm taking you to task because you stated that Jesus was
                  '>highly' mythologized and given what I know of anthropology this seems most
                  unlikely. Myth concerns relating in symbolic and imaginative language the
                  fundamental structures upon which a given culture rests, generally told in
                  terms of events from the earliest time, and dealing with mythic time which
                  is qualitatively different and discontinuous from ordinary, existential time
                  (so Eliade). It is hard to see how Jesus is "highly" mythologized under
                  that definition.

                  I wouldn't take that definition as the ultimate word on the matter. Obviously
                  most other people understood me perfectly well when I talked about the
                  mythologization of Jesus in the gospels, so there must be more to the word
                  myth and how we usually understand it than the narrow definition you give it.
                  Personally wouldn't hesitate a moment to call the story in gospel of John almost
                  pure myth since it involves "symbols and imaginative language relating to the fundamental
                  structures upon which a culture rests". In this case the story is a direct continuation of
                  the Genisis story and with myriads of symbolic threads linking back to the myths in
                  the OT. I also would call an allknowing spaceman come from Mars as a mythological
                  creation.

                  >Are you perhaps thinking of Jesus' healings? But
                  >Seutonius describes Vespasian as healing a blind man through the application
                  of spittle during a visit to Egypt. Would you also call this mythologizing?
                  Of course it isn't. It might be a fabrication, or something peculiar might
                  have happened, or perhaps more likely it might have been a piece of
                  >political propaganda (at least Vespasian seems to think it was "arranged"
                  >and was so it seems a little embarrassed), but it is hardly mythologizing.

                  I might call it mythologizing. Or fairytaling. Or propaganda. It all depends
                  on the larger setting of a particular scene. I do not think Seutonius has that
                  many angels flying around Vespasian and I do not think he has him walking
                  on water that many times and I do not think he weaves that many tales
                  around Vespasian resonating with the foundational, religious myths of the
                  Roman people. That is what the gospel writers do most of the time - they
                  create myth out of myth.

                  >But you've given us an example: Jesus' temptation when he encounters a
                  powerful opposing spiritual entity. But in what sense is that "highly"
                  mythologized or midrashic? You seem surprised to think that people who fast
                  for long periods regularly report spiritual encounters. I know of some
                  first nations people, some Africans, and some Western Christians who have
                  fasted for lengthy periods and they commonly speak of a heightened spiritual
                  sense and spiritual encounters. That the Buddha or Jesus should have had
                  similar encounters is more likely to be the result of fasting and isolation
                  as they wrestled through some issues involving deeply held convictions than
                  some kind of later adaptation to fit a generic and highly reductionist
                  putative hero myth (this sounds like you've been reading a certain
                  Californian popularizer). Now you may or may not believe that some kind of
                  spiritual encounter happened, but I fail to see how the gospel accounts of
                  Jesus' temptation can be described as "highly" mythologized or midrashic, at
                  least in any technically accurate sense. If your doctrinaire naturalism
                  forces you to deny something you can't explain in the Gospels or the Buddha,
                  fine. But please don't dress up your evident ideological skepticism in
                  scholarly garb, especially when it's the wrong garb. And that is my point:
                  what provoked my response was the cavalier and somewhat pompous way you used
                  these terms and then tried to suggest that this was agreed by "all the
                  >people who knew."

                  This is nonsense. Yes, I am well aware that people sometimes think they see
                  the devil and demons. But you really have to be obstinate in the extreme to deny the
                  "midrashic" and highly mythological character of the temptation scene. If
                  "midrash" is creating myth out of the Jewish peoples foundational myths Mark 1:12-13
                  is really IT.

                  Best wishes

                  Antonio Jerez
                  Göteborg, Sweden
                • forrest curo
                  Myth concerns relating in symbolic and imaginative language the ... I don t know about HIGHLY mythologized. But the cursing of the fig tree is certainly a
                  Message 8 of 29 , Oct 3, 2000
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                    Myth concerns relating in symbolic and imaginative language the
                    >fundamental structures upon which a given culture rests, generally told in
                    >terms of events from the earliest time, and dealing with mythic time which
                    >is qualitatively different and discontinuous from ordinary, existential time
                    >(so Eliade). It is hard to see how Jesus is "highly" mythologized under
                    >that definition.

                    I don't know about HIGHLY mythologized. But the cursing of the fig tree is
                    certainly a mythic element. ie, It is highly symbolic (& relates what the
                    Christians of the time saw as a fundamental structure of their situation vs
                    the non-Christian Jews); furthermore it would be highly unlikely even as a
                    miracle, since it would be utterly pointless had it occured in concrete
                    reality, given that Jesus' action would serve no purpose aside from venting
                    some rather unsaintly spite against some poor tree. It would also be
                    somewhat uncharacteristic of someone whose other attributed miracles ran to
                    healings.

                    Forrest Curo
                  • Rikki E. Watts
                    Thanks for the comments Bob, At 12:06 PM 10/02/00 , Rikki Watts wrote: ...First, to equate mythology with Midrash is simply wrong ... Second, Midrash in all
                    Message 9 of 29 , Oct 4, 2000
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                      Re: [XTalk] Midrash vs. Mythologization Thanks for the comments Bob,

                      At 12:06 PM 10/02/00 , Rikki Watts wrote:
                      ...First, to equate mythology with Midrash is simply wrong ...
                      Second, Midrash in all but its most jejune sense is precisely a commentary
                      on ancient scripture and never involved the creation of episodes which were
                      then presented as recent history.  This is why Philip Alexander, director of
                      the Hebrew Studies Centre at Oxford (probably an intelligent person), was so
                      devastating in his critique of NT scholars who use this language of the
                      gospels. ...

                      Well, I'd certainly like to know more about what Alexander wrote. Lewis Reich once wrote to us (I don't have his gem available on this computer) that there was a range of 5 types of  traditional Jewish scriptural commentary, ranging from very literal to very conjectural. I think the case could be made that the book of Enoch was an extended commentary on Genesis 6. It was, as you know, quite creative. Whether all this falls under the umbrella of Midrash, or whether Midrash was but one of the categories within the 5 types Reich summarized, I can't recall for sure.

                      Re Midrash, see P. S. Alexander, "Midrash and the Gospels" in C. M. Tuckett, ed., Synoptic Studies(Sheffield: JOST, 1984) 1-18, and "Midrash" in R. J. Coggins and J. L. Houlden, eds., A Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, (London and Philadelphia: SCM and TPI, 1990) 452-9. See also Neusner, Invitation to Midrash, where he sees Midrash working in three dimensions: an explanation imputed to particular verses of Scripture (= fixed canonical text), a mode of stating important propositions, syllogisms, in conversations with verses or sustained passages of Scripture, third, as a way of retelling (ancient) scriptural stories that imparts new immediacy to these stories.  On this reading, I'd be hard-pressed to see how one could describe the Gospels in this fashion.  Re Lewis, I'm not sure I'd accept Enoch as Midrash--it doesn't look much like what later Jews explicitly labeled Midrash.  My point is again that I think folk are using Midrash to describe any kind of interaction with a canonical text.  This is so broad as to be almost meaningless--especially when the term is already explicitly used of a certain kind of Rabbinica.  


                      Third, don't worry, I didn't think you thought the Gospels were pure
                      mythology.  I'm taking you to task because you stated that Jesus was
                      'highly' mythologized and given what I know of anthropology this seems most
                      unlikely.  Myth concerns relating in symbolic and imaginative language the
                      fundamental structures upon which a given culture rests, generally told in
                      terms of events from the earliest time, and dealing with mythic time which
                      is qualitatively different and discontinuous from ordinary, existential time
                      (so Eliade). ...

                      I think the topic of mythologization is a legitimate one (whether or not it involves Midrash), and I think it is quite possible for a "myth" to develop from an actual historical event. To me, the process of mythologization involves the progressive stripping from the original story some of its most unique temporal and geographical particularities. Many of the remaining elements of the story hold increasingly symbolic rather than literal meaning. I don't have Eliade with me (I'm on vacation, and only managed to bring a small portion of my library with me), so I cannot look for what he had to say about mythologization.

                      I think the Gnostics tried hard to mythologize Jesus. They were never particularly comfortable with his humanity anyway. But the mainstream of the church insisted on retaining particularities of time and place (even if some of the particularities were invented, as the Jesus Seminar often claims), and resisted much of the mythologization. There was a dual theological tendency pulling at every NT text: Immanence vs. Transcendence. The mythologizers tended to side with transcendence, I think, while those who insisted on Immanence also insisted on the humanity of Jesus. We depend on the latter for most of what we know of the historical Jesus, IMHO.

                      As we attempt to differentiate material about the historical Jesus, I think we might do well to understand the process of mythologization better, so as to control for whatever mythologizing tendencies there were in the literary process out of which our present texts evolved. Whether this process had anything to do with Midrash is, of course, another matter.

                      Hmm, very interesting ideas (transcendence etc).  If you have the time I'd be interested in hearing you further on this.  Given what you've said, it is fascinating e.g. that John has in some respects the highest Christology but also in some ways the earthiest, human Jesus.  

                      However, again, my main concern is with some control on this language.  I'm not au fait with Gnostic literature, but if their story world can be shown to have been mythological (according the definition offered earlier) then to conform Jesus to that worldview would indeed be to mythologize him.  But seeing that I'm much happier with Eliade's definition than with Bultmann et al who, not surprisingly perhaps, are not especially qualified to speak about this, I need to be convinced that the term should be applied to the tailoring of stories of recent individuals (which no doubt happens) and to do so in history-like narrative set in this-worldly time.  I know lay persons might speak of the Lincoln "myth" (cf. the recent fascinating post: does that mean that Jesus himself might  already have shaped his actions with a view to how they might be viewed later?), but if you don't mind me saying so, I personally find this use sloppy since as far as I can see those stories look nothing like what the ancients called myth and nor do they serve the same function (at this rate ancient Bioi become mythical and then one wonders what's the point of the terminology?).  So, sure, let's see if there are any viable ways we can test to see what goes back to Jesus and what doesn't, I'm just not convinced (to put it mildly, :-)) that "myth" is a helpful way to describe it.  

                      Rikk


                    • Andrew Smith
                      ... Even more importantly, Luke has made this into, or restored this as, a parable. Luke 13: 6: And he told this parable: A man had a fig tree planted in his
                      Message 10 of 29 , Oct 4, 2000
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                        on 10/3/00 8:32 PM, forrest curo at forest@... wrote:

                        > I don't know about HIGHLY mythologized. But the cursing of the fig tree is
                        > certainly a mythic element. ie, It is highly symbolic (& relates what the
                        > Christians of the time saw as a fundamental structure of their situation vs
                        > the non-Christian Jews); furthermore it would be highly unlikely even as a
                        > miracle, since it would be utterly pointless had it occured in concrete
                        > reality, given that Jesus' action would serve no purpose aside from venting
                        > some rather unsaintly spite against some poor tree. It would also be
                        > somewhat uncharacteristic of someone whose other attributed miracles ran to
                        > healings.
                        >
                        > Forrest Curo

                        Even more importantly, Luke has made this into, or restored this as, a
                        parable.
                        Luke 13:
                        6: And he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard;
                        and he came seeking fruit on it and found none.

                        7: And he said to the vinedresser, `Lo, these three years I have come
                        seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it
                        use up the ground?'

                        8: And he answered him, `Let it alone, sir, this year also, till I dig about
                        it and put on manure.

                        9: And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut
                        it down.'"

                        Andrew Smith
                      • Ken Olson
                        ... Rikk, OK; I see you are advocating the partial authenticity of the Testimonium (a la Meier et al., I presume), rather than complete authenticity. I take
                        Message 11 of 29 , Apr 1, 2004
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                          At 4:27 PM on April 1, 2004, Dr. Rikk E. Watts wrote in response to me:

                          > Thanks for the question. If you look at the passage in question there are
                          > some later Christian interpolations but they do not bear on the issue in
                          > question. But by text as stands I was referring to what Josephus seems
                          > plainly to say in the non-interpolated and relevant section. Does this
                          > help? My apologies if my language was unclear.

                          Rikk,

                          OK; I see you are advocating the partial authenticity of the Testimonium (a
                          la Meier et al., I presume), rather than complete authenticity. I take the
                          whole thing to be a Eusebian composition. What I wonder, though, is how
                          confident you can be that the words "And though, on the accusation of the
                          first men among us, he was condemned to the cross by Pilate, those who loved
                          him at first did not cease" should be attributed to Josephus? What is it
                          about these 17 words (in the Greek) that makes you sure that they're not
                          interpolated even though the four words before them and the 20 words after
                          them (if you are following, e.g., Meier) are interpolated? And how do you
                          know that the so-called interpolations are later than the rest of the text?
                          It would seem that the text "as it stands" is a Christian text.

                          Best Wishes,

                          Ken

                          kaolson@...
                        • Dr. Rikk E. Watts (Cantab)
                          Hi Ken, Yes I am relying on Meier CBQ 52 (1990) (cf. Brown). Seeing you are familiar with his work and the authorities he cites, I trust you don t mind if I
                          Message 12 of 29 , Apr 2, 2004
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                            Hi Ken,

                            Yes I am relying on Meier CBQ 52 (1990) (cf. Brown). Seeing you are familiar
                            with his work and the authorities he cites, I trust you don't mind if I
                            don't repeat his extensive argument. Perhaps you could tell me why you
                            reject it?

                            Regards
                            Rikk


                            On 1/4/04 5:14 PM, "Ken Olson" <kaolson@...> wrote:

                            > At 4:27 PM on April 1, 2004, Dr. Rikk E. Watts wrote in response to me:
                            >
                            >> Thanks for the question. If you look at the passage in question there are
                            >> some later Christian interpolations but they do not bear on the issue in
                            >> question. But by text as stands I was referring to what Josephus seems
                            >> plainly to say in the non-interpolated and relevant section. Does this
                            >> help? My apologies if my language was unclear.
                            >
                            > Rikk,
                            >
                            > OK; I see you are advocating the partial authenticity of the Testimonium (a
                            > la Meier et al., I presume), rather than complete authenticity. I take the
                            > whole thing to be a Eusebian composition. What I wonder, though, is how
                            > confident you can be that the words "And though, on the accusation of the
                            > first men among us, he was condemned to the cross by Pilate, those who loved
                            > him at first did not cease" should be attributed to Josephus? What is it
                            > about these 17 words (in the Greek) that makes you sure that they're not
                            > interpolated even though the four words before them and the 20 words after
                            > them (if you are following, e.g., Meier) are interpolated? And how do you
                            > know that the so-called interpolations are later than the rest of the text?
                            > It would seem that the text "as it stands" is a Christian text.
                            >
                            > Best Wishes,
                            >
                            > Ken
                            >
                            > kaolson@...
                            >
                            >
                            >
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                          • Mark Goodacre
                            ... Although this won t completely answer your question, Ken may be too modest to mention his article on the topic of the Testimonium, so I will do so: Olson,
                            Message 13 of 29 , Apr 2, 2004
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                              On 2 Apr 2004 at 4:46, Dr. Rikk E. Watts (Cantab) wrote:

                              > Yes I am relying on Meier CBQ 52 (1990) (cf. Brown). Seeing you are
                              > familiar with his work and the authorities he cites, I trust you don't
                              > mind if I don't repeat his extensive argument. Perhaps you could tell
                              > me why you reject it?

                              Although this won't completely answer your question, Ken may be too
                              modest to mention his article on the topic of the Testimonium, so I
                              will do so:

                              Olson, K. A. "Eusebius and the Testimonium Flavium." Catholic
                              biblical quarterly 61/2 (1999): 305 - 322

                              Mark
                              -----------------------------
                              Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
                              Graduate Institute for Theology & Religion
                              Dept of Theology
                              University of Birmingham
                              Elmfield House, Bristol Road tel.+44 121 414 7512
                              Birmingham B29 6LQ UK fax: +44 121 415 8376

                              http://www.theology.bham.ac.uk/goodacre
                              http://NTGateway.com
                            • Rikk Watts
                              Thanks Mark. I ll take a look now (and thanks Ken) Rikk
                              Message 14 of 29 , Apr 2, 2004
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                                Thanks Mark. I'll take a look now (and thanks Ken)

                                Rikk


                                On 2/4/04 4:59 AM, "Mark Goodacre" <M.S.Goodacre@...> wrote:

                                > On 2 Apr 2004 at 4:46, Dr. Rikk E. Watts (Cantab) wrote:
                                >
                                >> Yes I am relying on Meier CBQ 52 (1990) (cf. Brown). Seeing you are
                                >> familiar with his work and the authorities he cites, I trust you don't
                                >> mind if I don't repeat his extensive argument. Perhaps you could tell
                                >> me why you reject it?
                                >
                                > Although this won't completely answer your question, Ken may be too
                                > modest to mention his article on the topic of the Testimonium, so I
                                > will do so:
                                >
                                > Olson, K. A. "Eusebius and the Testimonium Flavium." Catholic
                                > biblical quarterly 61/2 (1999): 305 - 322
                                >
                                > Mark
                                > -----------------------------
                                > Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
                                > Graduate Institute for Theology & Religion
                                > Dept of Theology
                                > University of Birmingham
                                > Elmfield House, Bristol Road tel.+44 121 414 7512
                                > Birmingham B29 6LQ UK fax: +44 121 415 8376
                                >
                                > http://www.theology.bham.ac.uk/goodacre
                                > http://NTGateway.com
                                >
                                >
                                >
                                >
                                > The XTalk Home Page is http://ntgateway.com/xtalk/
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