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[XTalk] Re: Lonergan's project/circularity

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  • Sukie Curtis
    Bob Schacht wrote: At 12:06 PM 10/02/00 , Rikki E. Watts wrote: .... The Lonergan project is essentially what Ben Meyer and NT Wright are trying to apply to
    Message 1 of 9 , Oct 3, 2000
      Bob Schacht wrote:

      At 12:06 PM 10/02/00 , Rikki E. Watts wrote:
      ".... The Lonergan project is essentially what Ben Meyer and NT Wright
      are trying to apply to HJ studies: take all the data--all the stories about
      Jesus (including the strange ones), ancient genres, scribal techniques, what
      we know of the political and social setting, etc.--and see if one can make
      sense of it all without dismissing some pieces a priori ..."

      But do they in fact do this? Where, and on what basis, does one decide what
      "all the data" are? For example, do we count The Acts of John and numerous
      other Gnostic works that purport to quote Jesus? Do we include, as recently
      suggested, all the stories of Jesus in the Qur'an? There are indeed some
      strange stories therein. In fact, IMHO, *no one* includes "all" the data,
      nor could anyone include it all. All of us, with no exception, make
      judgements about what to include and what to exclude (some of us merely
      accept the boundaries that others have established). What Crossan argues,
      is that we begin any project by saying here is what I will include, and
      here is what I will exclude, and this is the reason why.


      To which I would add two things:

      First, as Bob suggests above, there are prior judgments made about one's
      "database" and it's best to declare those and give reasons for them.
      Crossan has pointed out that if one consults Wright's index of Gospel verses
      used in building and testing his hypothesis, these verses are predominantly
      from the synoptics, which would seem to indicate some kind of prior decision
      about the relative merits for historical reconstruction of the synoptics vs.
      John, not to mention Thomas and other. But no such prior decision about the
      gospels is stated; rather a kind of dismissal of the "old quest's"
      over-dependence on higher criticism is stated. (I've only read his _Jesus
      and the Victory of God_ and I do not own a copy, so I can't cite pages.
      This is from memory, and from Crossan's critique in _The Birth of
      Christianity_.)

      Second, I would ask a second question: is it any less circular for Wright
      or anyone else (I've not read Ben Meyer, but I believe Willaim Herzog
      follows a similar route in _Jesus, Justice, and the Reign of God_) to
      propose a large-scale "hypothesis" or "gestalt" (Herzog's word) and then try
      to see whether the gospel evidence fits into it? Why start with that
      hypothesis and not this one? What prior decisions predispose one toward one
      hypothesis rather than another? And if one's hypothesis is not too
      dissimilar from the kind of portrait of Jesus found in the gospels (or at
      least in the synoptics), then of course the synoptic data will fit! I'm not
      sure that's any less circular than starting with decisions about gospel
      relationships and sources and working from there, as someone like Crossan
      does. Just a different circle.

      Sukie Curtis
      Cumberland Foreside, Maine
    • Robert M. Schacht
      At 07:26 AM 10/03/00 , Sukie wrote: At 12:06 PM 10/02/00 , Rikki E. Watts wrote: .... The Lonergan project is essentially what Ben Meyer and NT Wright are
      Message 2 of 9 , Oct 3, 2000
        At 07:26 AM 10/03/00 , Sukie wrote:

        At 12:06 PM 10/02/00 , Rikki E. Watts wrote:
        "....  The Lonergan project is essentially what Ben Meyer and NT Wright
        are trying to apply to HJ studies: take all the data--all the stories about
        Jesus (including the strange ones), ancient genres, scribal techniques, what
        we know of the political and social setting, etc.--and see if one can make
        sense of it all without dismissing some pieces a priori ..."

        Then Bob Schacht wrote:

        But do they in fact do this? Where, and on what basis, does one decide what
        "all the data" are? For example, do we count The Acts of John and numerous
        other Gnostic works that purport to quote Jesus? Do we include, as recently
        suggested, all the stories of Jesus in the Qur'an? There are indeed some
        strange stories therein. In fact, IMHO, *no one* includes "all" the data,
        nor could anyone include it all. All of us, with no exception, make
        judgements about what to include and what to exclude (some of us merely
        accept the boundaries that others have established). What Crossan argues,
        is that we begin any project by saying here is what I will include, and
        here is what I will exclude, and this is the reason why.

        Sukie responded:

        To which I would add two things:

        First, as Bob suggests above, there are prior judgments made about one's
        "database" and it's best to declare those and give reasons for them.
        Crossan has pointed out that if one consults Wright's index of Gospel verses
        used in building and testing his hypothesis, these verses are predominantly
        from the synoptics, which would seem to indicate some kind of prior decision
        about the relative merits for historical reconstruction of the synoptics vs.
        John, not to mention Thomas and other.  But no such prior decision about the
        gospels is stated; rather a kind of dismissal of the "old quest's"
        over-dependence on higher criticism is stated.  (I've only read his _Jesus
        and the Victory of God_ and I do not own a copy, so I can't cite pages.
        This is from memory, and from Crossan's critique in _The Birth of
        Christianity_.)

        Thanks for this added info.

        Second, I would ask a second question:  is it any less circular for Wright
        or anyone else (I've not read Ben Meyer, but I believe Willaim Herzog
        follows a similar route in _Jesus, Justice, and the Reign of God_) to
        propose a large-scale "hypothesis" or "gestalt" (Herzog's word) and then try
        to see whether the gospel evidence fits into it?  Why start with that
        hypothesis and not this one?  What prior decisions predispose one toward one
        hypothesis rather than another?  And if one's hypothesis is not too
        dissimilar from the kind of portrait of Jesus found in the gospels (or at
        least in the synoptics), then of course the synoptic data will fit! I'm not
        sure that's any less circular than starting with decisions about gospel
        relationships and sources and working from there, as someone like Crossan
        does.  Just a different circle.

        Sukie Curtis

        Well, I don't much care where the hypothesis came from. What I do care about his that hypotheses be testable, and that we be able to test rival hypotheses so as to be able to decide between them.

        From what Rikk has written about Lonergan and Wright, I get the idea that the testing of rival hypotheses is an intensely personal thing (i.e., validated by "experience"), which seems unfortunately to reduce to which hypothesis one "likes" better. I think I must not understand this correctly, because I am sure there must be more to it than that. Rikk, can you help me out? I have some of Wright's books with me, and hope to get to them soon.

        Bob

      • Rikki E. Watts
        Fair enough comment Bob; this would probably be the judgement step in which on the basis of knowledge you decide what experiences are helpful to include.
        Message 3 of 9 , Oct 4, 2000
          Fair enough comment Bob; this would probably be the "judgement" step in
          which on the basis of knowledge you decide what experiences are helpful to
          include. Naturally it would be impossible to include every single item of
          data, but then I don't Lonergan meant that. His point appears to be that at
          the initial stages one doesn't choose at the outset to exclude certain
          categories of data for a priori reasons (he is developing a larger theory of
          the possibility of knowledge). Clearly Crossan would disagree with Meyer
          and Wright over what kinds of data to include. But in the end, I wonder who
          tends to be more inclusive? I would want to ask on what grounds are certain
          data excluded--because the documents themselves are deemed to be late or
          because we "know" certain bits of them don't belong because Jesus wasn't
          like that? Personally, I think Crossan's method entails so many more
          untestable hypotheses (e.g. on Q alone: was their a Q community, what did
          they believe, did they believe only what they wrote down in their "book", it
          is was a book, etc.) which then determine what data he includes/excludes
          that I start to feel rather nervous. On the other hand, Meyer and Wright
          include "Q" (by default) since it occurs in Mt and Lk, but without having to
          postulate a largely untestable history. Granted this is simply my view, and
          others may or may not find it convincing. With all this in mind, am I still
          missing it if I think that Meyer and Wright do tend to be more inclusive and
          less theory laden? How readest thou?

          Rikk.

          > From: "Robert M. Schacht" <r_schacht@...>
          > Reply-To: crosstalk2@egroups.com
          > Date: Mon, 02 Oct 2000 19:11:52 -0700
          > To: crosstalk2@egroups.com
          > Subject: [XTalk] Re: Lonergan's project
          >
          > At 12:06 PM 10/02/00 , Rikki E. Watts wrote:
          > ".... The Lonergan project is essentially what Ben Meyer and NT Wright
          > are trying to apply to HJ studies: take all the data--all the stories about
          > Jesus (including the strange ones), ancient genres, scribal techniques, what
          > we know of the political and social setting, etc.--and see if one can make
          > sense of it all without dismissing some pieces a priori ..."
          >
          > But do they in fact do this? Where, and on what basis, does one decide what
          > "all the data" are? For example, do we count The Acts of John and numerous
          > other Gnostic works that purport to quote Jesus? Do we include, as recently
          > suggested, all the stories of Jesus in the Qur'an? There are indeed some
          > strange stories therein. In fact, IMHO, *no one* includes "all" the data,
          > nor could anyone include it all. All of us, with no exception, make
          > judgements about what to include and what to exclude (some of us merely
          > accept the boundaries that others have established). What Crossan argues,
          > is that we begin any project by saying here is what I will include, and
          > here is what I will exclude, and this is the reason why.
          >
          > Bob
          > Bob Schacht
          > Flagstaff, AZ
          > "Grace danceth. I would pipe; dance ye all. Amen. To the Universe belongs
          > the Dancer -- Amen. He who does not dance does not know what happens -- Amen.
          > Now if you follow my dance, see yourself in Me who am speaking. . . .
          > You who dance, consider what I do, for yours is this passion of Man which I
          > am to suffer. For you could by no means have understood what you suffer if
          > I had not been sent to you, as Logos of the Father."
          > --The Acts of John, Chapters 94-96
          >
          >
          >
          >
          >
          > The XTalk Home Page is http://www.xtalk.org
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          > To subscribe to Xtalk, send an e-mail to: crosstalk2-subscribe@egroups.com
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        • Rikki E. Watts
          Thanks Sukie, See my earlier response to Bob s query (I think) where I make some comments about Collingwood s approach to history in the light of my TA s work.
          Message 4 of 9 , Oct 5, 2000
            Thanks Sukie,

            See my earlier response to Bob's query (I think) where I make some comments
            about Collingwood's approach to history in the light of my TA's work. You
            might also want to read Wright's NTPG where he lays out something of the
            philosophical approach which undergirds his JVG. Perhaps one reason why one
            doesn't start with Thomas is that it is not a connected story, but isolated
            sayings. This strikes me as one of the key differences, much of Crossan's
            work seems to be foundationalist in terms of isolated sayings and then
            building up from there. But I repeat myself. Do have a look at the stuff
            on Collingwood but especially have a look at Lonergan.

            For the list: I have just had recommended to me a book by Hugo Meynell,
            REDIRECTING PHILOSOPHY: REFLECTIONS ON THE NATURE OF KNOWLEDGE FROM PLATO TO
            LONERGAN. This apparently is one of the best works around integrating
            Lonergan with the Western Philosophical tradition.

            (I'm getting way behind on my work... as much fun as this is, I think I'll
            have to curtail my responses for the next little while. Let me say though
            that I have very much appreciated many of the contributions, especially when
            they have taken me to task. And thanks Jeffrey for the list.. )

            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

            > From: "Sukie Curtis" <sbcurtis@...>
            > Reply-To: crosstalk2@egroups.com
            > Date: Tue, 3 Oct 2000 10:26:32 -0400
            > To: <crosstalk2@egroups.com>
            > Subject: [XTalk] Re: Lonergan's project/circularity
            >
            >
            >
            > Bob Schacht wrote:
            >
            > At 12:06 PM 10/02/00 , Rikki E. Watts wrote:
            > ".... The Lonergan project is essentially what Ben Meyer and NT Wright
            > are trying to apply to HJ studies: take all the data--all the stories about
            > Jesus (including the strange ones), ancient genres, scribal techniques, what
            > we know of the political and social setting, etc.--and see if one can make
            > sense of it all without dismissing some pieces a priori ..."
            >
            > But do they in fact do this? Where, and on what basis, does one decide what
            > "all the data" are? For example, do we count The Acts of John and numerous
            > other Gnostic works that purport to quote Jesus? Do we include, as recently
            > suggested, all the stories of Jesus in the Qur'an? There are indeed some
            > strange stories therein. In fact, IMHO, *no one* includes "all" the data,
            > nor could anyone include it all. All of us, with no exception, make
            > judgements about what to include and what to exclude (some of us merely
            > accept the boundaries that others have established). What Crossan argues,
            > is that we begin any project by saying here is what I will include, and
            > here is what I will exclude, and this is the reason why.
            >
            >
            > To which I would add two things:
            >
            > First, as Bob suggests above, there are prior judgments made about one's
            > "database" and it's best to declare those and give reasons for them.
            > Crossan has pointed out that if one consults Wright's index of Gospel verses
            > used in building and testing his hypothesis, these verses are predominantly
            > from the synoptics, which would seem to indicate some kind of prior decision
            > about the relative merits for historical reconstruction of the synoptics vs.
            > John, not to mention Thomas and other. But no such prior decision about the
            > gospels is stated; rather a kind of dismissal of the "old quest's"
            > over-dependence on higher criticism is stated. (I've only read his _Jesus
            > and the Victory of God_ and I do not own a copy, so I can't cite pages.
            > This is from memory, and from Crossan's critique in _The Birth of
            > Christianity_.)
            >
            > Second, I would ask a second question: is it any less circular for Wright
            > or anyone else (I've not read Ben Meyer, but I believe Willaim Herzog
            > follows a similar route in _Jesus, Justice, and the Reign of God_) to
            > propose a large-scale "hypothesis" or "gestalt" (Herzog's word) and then try
            > to see whether the gospel evidence fits into it? Why start with that
            > hypothesis and not this one? What prior decisions predispose one toward one
            > hypothesis rather than another? And if one's hypothesis is not too
            > dissimilar from the kind of portrait of Jesus found in the gospels (or at
            > least in the synoptics), then of course the synoptic data will fit! I'm not
            > sure that's any less circular than starting with decisions about gospel
            > relationships and sources and working from there, as someone like Crossan
            > does. Just a different circle.
            >
            > Sukie Curtis
            > Cumberland Foreside, Maine
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            >
            > 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
            I initially sent this off-list to Rikki, and he urged me to send it to XTalk, observing Lonergan seems to be fully aware that any approach is theory laden,
            Message 5 of 9 , Oct 6, 2000
              I initially sent this off-list to Rikki, and he urged me to send it to XTalk, observing

              Lonergan seems to be fully aware that any approach is theory laden, hence his idea: objectivity only comes with genuine subjectivity.  ...  and do send this on list!

              So, here's what I wrote:

              At 06:58 AM 10/04/00 ,Rikki wrote:
              Fair enough comment Bob; this would probably be the "judgement" step in
              which on the basis of knowledge you decide what experiences are helpful to
              include.  Naturally it would be impossible to include every single item of
              data, but then I don't [think] Lonergan meant that.  His point appears to be that at
              the initial stages one doesn't choose at the outset to exclude certain
              categories of data for a priori reasons (he is developing a larger theory of
              the possibility of knowledge).

              I was trying to point out that by not examining this issue, one gets to treat it sloppily and naively. Which won't do.

               Clearly Crossan would disagree with Meyer
              and Wright over what kinds of data to include.  But in the end, I wonder who
              tends to be more inclusive?  I would want to ask on what grounds are certain
              data excluded--because the documents themselves are deemed to be late or
              because we "know" certain bits of them don't belong because Jesus wasn't
              like that?  Personally, I think Crossan's method entails so many more
              untestable hypotheses (e.g. on Q alone: was their a Q community, what did
              they believe, did they believe only what they wrote down in their "book", it
              is was a book, etc.) which then determine what data he includes/excludes
              that I start to feel rather nervous.  On the other hand, Meyer and Wright
              include "Q" (by default) since it occurs in Mt and Lk, but without having to
              postulate a largely untestable history.  Granted this is simply my view, and
              others may or may not find it convincing.  With all this in mind, am I still
              missing it if I think that Meyer and Wright do tend to be more inclusive and
              less theory laden?  How readest thou?

              I wouldn't even begin to know how to answer that question.
              First off, I don't even know how to begin, and second, I wouldn't know how to proceed. There's too many apples and oranges rolling around in all this.
              My tendency is to want to be inclusive-- up to a point. For example, I'd certainly include GJohn as well as the synoptics (many NT scholars say they can't do that, that one has to choose), and I might also include GThomas as a minor witness. I would justify these selections, and not others, on the basis of their probable origin in the First Century (Even this is by no means a certainty, in the case of GJohn and GThomas). On the same grounds I'd probably want to include, when relevant, the Didache, and perhaps other works if they could be traced to First Century texts. But this is not sufficient. Do we then include everything in all of these works as of equal value, as the Lonergan project seems to imply? I would not want to do that with GThomas.

              I do not think that "theory laden" approaches are necessarily bad. But the theory should be out there on the table for all to see, and not a covert agenda. At least then, if one wants, one can begin by refuting the theory, or exposing its weaknesses-- which can be a more efficient process than struggling with all the details of the applicatin of the theory. In fact, in some ways I prefer an explicit theory laden approach to an "inclusive" approach where one's criteria of inclusivity are vague, unstated, and with no discernible justification. I don't trust that kind of inductivism, because too often there are covert or unconscious hidden agendas.

              Bob
            • Antonio Jerez
              ...
              Message 6 of 9 , Oct 8, 2000
                Bob Schacht wrote:
                 
                >My tendency is to want to be inclusive-- up to a point. For example,
                I'd certainly include GJohn as well as the synoptics >(many NT scholars say they can't do that, that one has to choose), and I might also include GThomas as a minor witness. I would justify these selections, and not others, on the basis of their probable origin in the First Century (Even this is by no means a certainty, in the case of GJohn and GThomas). On the same grounds I'd probably want to include, when relevant, the Didache, and perhaps other works if they could be traced to First Century texts. But this is not sufficient. Do we then
                >include everything in all of these works as of equal value, as the Lonergan
                project seems to imply? I would not want to do >that with GThomas.

                <I do not think that "theory laden" approaches are necessarily bad. But the theory should be out there on the table for all to <see, and not a covert agenda. At least then, if one wants, one can begin by refuting the theory, or exposing its weaknesses-- which can be a more efficient process than struggling with all the details of the applicatin of the theory. In fact, in some ways I prefer an explicit theory laden approach to an "inclusive" approach where one's criteria of inclusivity <are vague, unstated, and with no discernible justification. I don't trust that kind of inductivism, because too often there are <covert or unconscious hidden agendas.
                 
                May I concur wholeheartedly with what Bob says. Although I often disagree with Crossan
                about his conclusions at least you know why he argues for a certain thing. That is not
                the case with NT Wright since he leaves so many questions totally unanswered. I am
                still wondering why he leaves out a discussion of Matthew's Last Judgement? Is it because
                he thinks it is a Matthean creation? If so on what grounds does he think so? Linguistics?
                 
                Since Ricki Watts is NT Wrights staunchest defender on the list I thought I was going to
                reopen a debate that I left unfinished back in May this year. I never answered Ricki´s
                message of 4 May "Critical Realism" because of lack of time and a general feeling
                that Ricki and I are just too far apart for a meaningful discussion to follow. Maybe we still
                are but I'll make a new try.
                 
                I once contended that the gospel writers sometimes invented sayings that they
                attributed to Jesus. I also contended that if we find ONE single example of a gospel
                writer inventing a Jesus saying then it follows that Wright's method, where you don't
                ask any questions at all about the genuineness of a particular saying, falls to pieces.
                I then contended that we do indeed find examples in the gospels where the only
                reasonable explanation is that one or more of the gospel writers have put his own
                words in Jesus mouth. To this Ricki Watt's answered on 4 May.
                 
                c. of course you react to this, citing 'totally dissimilar sayings' which no
                oral tradition on earth could account for (or something like that).  Indulge
                me by being specific (you mention the sayings from the cross in
                general)--would you mind giving me one or two of your key examples?  Then we
                can talk about details rather than generalities.  I suspect as we talk about
                this we'll discover that there are important assumptions that will strongly
                influence the outcome. 
                 
                Ricki asked for specific examples. I will know give here a couple.
                Let us take a look at a scene like Jesus trial before the Sanhedrin.
                This scene can only have happened once. Wright's assertion that
                variations in a given Jesus saying can be explained by the simple fact
                that Jesus might said similar things with slight variations at different
                occasions does obviously not apply in a situation like this.
                 
                Here are the answers Jesus gives to the High priests question as to
                wether he claims to be the Messiah:
                Mark 14:62   "I am"
                Matthew 26:64 "You say so..."
                Luke 22:67 "You will not believe if I tell you..."
                 
                How does Ricki explain these variations?
                 
                Another example. This time Jesus last words on the cross. I think we
                both agree that Jesus cannot have been more than one time on the
                cross.
                In Mark 15:34 Jesus exclaims " My God, My God why have you forsaken me"
                In Mtt 27:46 we hear the same exclamation
                In Luke 23:46 Jesus last words are "Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit".
                In John 19:30 Jesus last words are "It is finished!"
                 
                How does Ricki explain these variations
                 
                I could give more examples from the Last supper, Jesus missionary command and
                his words on divorce. But we'll start with these two examples.
                 
                In my earlier message I also pointed out that the best example
                that the gospel writers did indeed invent and alter Jesus sayings
                is GJohn. Here we find invention on a scale that is very much beyond
                what the synoptic writers did. But strangely enough Ricki is hesitant
                to acknowledge even this. This was his anwer:
                 
                d. you mention John's gospel.  It's difficult to know what to do with John
                vis-a-vis the Synoptics, as is evident in the widely divergent views on
                offer.  At least one early tradition regarded as a spiritual gospel; what
                might this imply about its genre?  But as Mahlon's recent post implied if
                not noted, one of the key problems for John and the Synoptics is
                understanding the relationship between report and interpretation which is
                probably best understood in terms of a continuum rather than a polarity
                (indeed Tom echoing numerous others have simply been questioning whether
                there is such a thing as a non-theological approach to history; naturalism
                already implies a theology even if a negative one).
                 
                I must admit that I found this answer evasive in the extreme when
                I read it months ago. And I don´t find it less evasive now. Why is
                it so difficult to know what to do with John visavis the synoptics?
                One thing is the difficult question if John is dependent or independent
                of the synoptics, another not so difficult question to answer for most
                Johannine experts is that John has indeed made up whole speaches
                for Jesus that do not go back to the historical Jesus. The style of the
                writing and the content of the speaches betray that the hand of this
                christian theologian. And simple logic told critical scholars a long time
                ago that you cannot reconcile the Jesus of the synoptics with the Jesus
                of John. Mark's Jesus is a godman in disguise who does his best to
                hide his true identity until the end. John's Jesus on the other hand has
                no qualms at all about telling the Jews face to face who he is. How does
                Ricki explain this phenomenon? And how does Ricki explain that the
                talking style of the Johannine Jesus is so different from the synoptics.
                And why does NT Wright leave out GJohn from his database? And why
                no real discussion about on what grounds he decides to do this?
                 
                Best wishes
                 
                Antonio Jerez
                 
                 


                 
                 
                 

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