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Re: [XTalk] historical Jesus

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  • Mark Goodacre
    ... Would you care to comment on how you see this being the case in relation to Downing s work? After all, Downing remains an adherent of a relatively
    Message 1 of 134 , Dec 1, 2000
      On 30 Nov 2000, at 9:38, Rikki E. Watts wrote:

      > At the level of praxis I have similar concerns. I can't see
      > anywhere where the JS has taken account of the implications of
      > Kenneth Bailey's article on oral tradition (³Informal Controlled
      > Oral Tradition and the Synoptic Gospels,² Themelios 20 (1995)
      > 4-11; orig. AJT 5 (1991) 34-54) or Downing's 1988 work on ancient
      > use of sources (³Compositional Conventions and the Synoptic
      > Problem,² JBL 107:69-85). Taken together both of these, IMHO,
      > bid fair to render much of the source/redaction critical debate
      > passe.

      Would you care to comment on how you see this being the
      case in relation to Downing's work? After all, Downing
      remains an adherent of a relatively orthodox version of the
      standard source-critical paradigm. His primary critiques
      recently seem to me to have been aimed at those working
      within the same discipline, perhaps most specifically (a)
      elements Kloppenborg's and Mack's stratigraphical analyses
      of Q and (b) Michael Goulder's theories on how Luke was
      composed. In other words, I'd be interested to hear how you
      feel that Downing's work really damages much of the standard
      paradigm of doing source- and redaction- critical work, rather
      than simply engaging those who work within that discipline.

      On Bailey, I agree with you that NT scholars have been slow
      to engage with what is an interesting and important study.
      Nevertheless, I am concerned that some of those who have
      attempted to appropriate Bailey do so without engaging
      carefully with what source- and redaction- critics are actually
      saying. N. T. Wright, for example, attempts to develop Bailey
      in this way:

      "My guess would be that we have two versions of the great
      supper parable, two versions of the talents/pounds parable,
      and two versions of the beatitudes, not because one is
      adapted from the other, or both from a common written
      source, but because these are two out of a dozen or more
      possible variations that, had one been in Galilee with a tape-
      recorder, one might have 'collected'. Anyone who suggests
      that this is not so must, I think, either be holding on doggedly
      to the picture of the early church which I criticized in the first
      volume, or be in thrall to a highly dogmatic view of scripture, or
      simply have no historical imagination for what an itinerant
      ministry, within a peasant culture, would look like." (_Jesus
      and the Victory of God_, pp. 170-1).

      There is an extent to which Wright, no doubt intentionally, has
      chosen the right examples -- there is less verbatim agreement
      between Matthew and Luke in the two parables he mentions
      than there is often elsewhere in the Synoptics. Nevertheless,
      one of the reasons that many continue, in these examples, to
      theorize Q or Luke's use of Matthew (let's be specific) is as
      the result of literary analysis of the texts in question, based on
      careful sifting of all the available evidence. There is no a priori
      rejection of the possibility of sole derivation from oral
      tradition(s). As it happens, there is a good number of
      scholars -- and I would like to include myself among their
      number -- who do not draw this kind of sharp division between
      a narrow, literary use of literary sources and appropriation of
      oral tradition. The most plausible reconstruction of Christian
      origins will take into account the extent to which an evangelist
      is likely to have interacted not only with literary sources but
      also with oral traditions and, I would add, oral traditions that
      were themselves influenced by those literary sources. One of
      the things I have attempted to draw attention to in my
      arguments against the Q hypothesis is Luke's Preface, which
      self-consciously draws attention to the evangelist's interaction
      with both written sources and oral traditions (see, for example,
      my contribution to the SBL Seminar Papers, "A Monoply on
      Marcan Priority? Fallacies at the Heart of Q", specifically pp.

      I think Bailey's work is indeed interesting and refreshing, and
      needs to be taken seriously, but in order for it to be used as
      model that will totally replace standard source-critical models,
      one would need a detailed refutation of the case for the literary
      relationship among the synoptics. Those who have attempted
      this kind of refutation (Linneman, Rist) have usually badly
      failed to make a convincing case. The kind of model I think
      we are gradually moving towards is one that takes seriously
      *both* the literary relationship among the Synoptics *and*
      interaction with oral traditions.

      I realise that your primary target here was the Jesus Seminar,
      but I was concerned about the general comments above about
      source- and redaction- criticism, both of which I think should
      still have a place.

      > After listening to Jimmy Dunn's decade-later re-presentation of
      > Bailey at this year's SBL (to which Jeffrey earlier alluded), I
      > was left wondering why Bailey's work was "news" to so many.

      I missed Dunn's session, but read the paper in the Seminar
      Papers. I thought the appeal to Bailey, and the short survey
      of the general issue, very helpful. I was troubled, though, with
      the way in which much of the rest of the article was worked
      out. I'll copy my comments made on Synoptic-L last week,
      where we had been having a discussion of Dunn's paper:

      I enjoyed Dunn's paper too (though I wish he'd used 14 point font
      as we were all instructed -- it is difficult to read!), and felt that it
      potentially makes an important contribution to the study of
      Christian origins. I would concur, for example, on the Lord's Prayer
      (cf. my own "Fallacies" paper, which made some related points).
      However, I was a bit concerned about some of the other examples
      that supposedly represented variation in oral tradition. The Stilling
      of the Storm is usually regarded as a text-book example of
      Matthew's and Luke's literary use of Mark, i.e. all variations are
      straightforwardly explicable in terms of their redactional interests
      that can be gleaned from elsewhere. Even stranger, to my mind,
      was the case from the Centurion's Boy, Dunn's first example. Here
      we have extensive verbatim agreement between Matthew and Luke,
      agreement in order including an editorial segue common to the two
      (Luke 7.1 // ), variations that make good sense (again) when one
      looks at the different evangelists' general editorial habits, and a
      parallel in John that gives some example of what an independent
      version really might look like.

      I also found myself wondering on what grounds Dunn holds to the
      Q hypothesis, since the argument from order is clearly not
      important to him, nor, given his discussion of the Lord's Prayer,
      can the argument from alternating primitivity be important. Further,
      I could not agree with his statement that the difficulties with the Q
      hypothesis come from the simple equation of the double tradition
      (what he calls "q") with the hypothetical document Q (what he calls
      "Q"). I think that that it would take a lot of hard work to justify that
      statement -- Q scholars are much more sophisticated than he is
      giving them credit for.

      Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
      Dept of Theology tel: +44 121 414 7512
      University of Birmingham fax: +44 121 414 6866
      Birmingham B15 2TT United Kingdom

      The New Testament Gateway
    • Rikki E. Watts
      ... .. Fair enough, and indeed I do appreciate the restraint. ... As you know Bill, while I recognize the distinction, it seem to me in practice that this kind
      Message 134 of 134 , Mar 6, 2001
        on 3/2/01 10:36 AM, William Arnal at william.arnal@... wrote:

        > In a way I'm a little disinclined to pick this up, for much the same reasons
        > that I've left off responding on the "miracle" thread: 1) I've pretty much
        > said what I have to say, anything else would be clarification or quibbling
        > over details;
        .. Fair enough, and indeed I do appreciate the restraint.

        >and 2) the discussion ITSELF (this is MUCH more true of the
        > "miracles" thread than this one) threatens to defeat my whole purpose in
        > engaging in it -- i.e., it tends to focus our discussion on theological
        > issues rather than on historical ones.
        As you know Bill, while I recognize the distinction, it seem to me in
        practice that this kind of dichotomy is sometimes a thinly disguised attempt
        to sneak in a kind of doctrinaire naturalism by the back door, if not the
        mistaken application of the fact-value distinction to history. (By the way,
        I'd be very interested in hearing your response to my assessment of Hume.)

        > So, I think, this will be MY last word on the matter, although as always
        > others are quite welcome to put in THE last word.
        Indeed, thanks.. And I'll take you up on the offer... :-).

        > At 09:37 AM 2/28/01 -0800, Rikki E. Watts wrote:
        >> including such movements as deconstructionism). I mentioned PM because it
        >> highlighted the fundamental problem with what most people seem to understand
        >> as "modern" epistemology which, in terms of doing history--my primary
        >> interest here, concerns the problematic of the fact-interpretation
        >> distinction (deriving from the mistaken notion that truth via objectivity
        >> emerges from the eradication of subjectivity), the inappropriate application
        >> in historical studies of the Baconian idea that one builds up from discrete
        >> facts to a larger picture, and the assumption of doctrinaire naturalism. If
        >> you don't mean these things when you speak of being a modern then fine. On
        > Indeed I don't mean these things, at least in the e-mail to which you were
        > responding. I meant "modern" in a non-technical sense, as in "not ancient."
        > And in fact I was not so much thinking of INTELLECTUAL constructs, such as
        > explicit epistemologies, as of unquestioned worldviews, types of
        > experiences, and so forth. The world we live in -- whatever you want to call
        > it -- affects the way we think, and indeed the ways in which we are CAPABLE
        > of thinking. And this is not exclusively (nor even primarily) in terms of
        > explicit epistemological schemata.
        Okay.. but now I'm having trouble understanding why you made such a
        distinction in the first place (see below).

        >> the other hand if the suggestion is that if one lives in the modern world
        >> one is somehow trapped in this epistemology and therefore that this somehow
        >> rules out a discourse about a larger view of the world, then this seems to
        >> me not only to smack of dogmatism and credo as much as any fundamentalism
        >> but if true would mean that we could never change our minds and the latter
        >> is manifestly not the case.
        > No, that's just silly. One's living in the "modern" (or contemporary, if you
        > like) world is indeed a KIND of trap, in that it does indeed dictate and
        > limit thought to a considerable degree. But to say this is HARDLY to suggest
        > that a RANGE of thought is impossible, or that these things never change. In
        > fact, it is precisely the point of such historicizing that such overarching
        > conceptual frameworks DO change over time, and indeed may always be in the
        > process of changing. My very simple original point is that OUR worldview and
        > its possibilities (however various) are very different from those of ancients.
        On your last point, quite right. But, help me, are you suggesting then that
        this gulf is such that we cannot have any sense of ancient worldviews? I
        don't think you are. If not, then what are you saying that Gadamer hasn't
        already said about our "situatedness" and horizons? I'm glad to hear that
        you don't think we are trapped in our present cultural/intellectual
        horizons; if we aren't then that opens the door to the possibility of access
        to the ancient world. But now I'm puzzled about why you mentioned the fact
        of our being modern in the first place.

        >>>> all of his examples and studies with the exception of
        >>>> Balkans' singers are taken from modern, technological,
        >>>> western, highly literary cultures--hardly likely to help
        >>>> us with questions of how ancient village oral culture
        >>>> dealt with particular stories of significant people.
        >>> Yes, and this sort of reasoning is specious.
        >> Whose? Mine or Crossan's? :-).
        > I can't remember! I probably meant yours (or rather, Crossan's critics).
        I thought so actually, :-).

        > Simply using examples of how memories work, here there and anywhere, does
        > cast SOME light on the problem, and I'm disinclined to buy into the positing
        > of a huge rift between "oral" and "literate" cultures. Nonetheless, of
        > course, historical and cultural situation IS (obviously) a factor, and needs
        > to be taken into account. My impression is that Crossan does this, though
        > perhaps not as much as some would like.

        >> C'mon, Bill, what is this "to assume some mystical, magical chasm ... making
        >> something wholly other.."? I never said nor intended any such thing, so
        >> please don't put words in my mouth. (Isn't this just another example of
        >> putting your opponents' view in the most extreme terms so you can engage the
        >> black and white fallacy?)
        > No, it's a question of using hyperbole to reflect what I've read on the
        > oral-written divide. Too many students of this problem treat the matter in
        > much the way I've indicated, i.e., as though a kind of cultural *chasm*
        > existed between written and oral cultures, and as though there were no
        > possible continuum between the two, and as though their features don't ever
        > intermix. In general and as a result, I am VERY suspicious of ANY claims
        > that "oral cultures" or "illiterate culutres" (of which Christian antiquity
        > was NOT one) are substantively different than literate ones, ESPECIALLY as
        > regards memory. Modern memories can be just as prodigious.
        - fine (watch out, cows may fly) I agree with you and share your suspicion.
        My reason for mentioning literacy was Bailey's observation of how in a
        setting where they don't commit their history to writing these villages
        passed it on through oral tradition. Crossan's examples deal with
        individuals (not communities) who were asked to recall events that they
        never deliberately committed to memory in the first place.

        >> Sorry, I think you are assuming the wrong book. I'm not referring to his
        >> parables volumes. See instead his article on oral tradition in the Near East
        >> ³Informal Controlled Oral Tradition and the Synoptic Gospels,² Themelios 20
        >> (1995) 4-11.). Bailey had decades to observe how near eastern villagers
        >> passed on traditions and he noted several categories in which memory was
        >> employed in very different ways. E.g. atrocity stories from outside the
        >> village or its sphere were largely uncontrolled and could be embellished
        >> liberally. On the other hand proverbs were strictly controlled and
        >> bewilderingly extensive passages from the Koran memorized verbatim.
        > Yeah, you already noted this.
        True, but I did so privately. I thought it might help clarify the issue for

        >I actually found the BOOKS by Bailey very
        > helpful for different reasons. I have not yet looked up this article (when I
        > was in Regina, I couldn't get Themelios -- now that I'm back in NYC I have
        > no time!); but I will. I'm still unsure how this offers ANY indication of
        > the verbatim reliability of oral tradition (of which the Koran, n.b., is
        > NOT), nor how it works on the oral/literary scenario. As I've pointed out
        > before, I've memorized HUGE blocks of material, rather easily, in spite of
        > being a literate person.
        >> Most interesting of all were the stories of important figures associated
        >> with the life of the village, or the village's founding moment. Here only
        >> certain people were allowed to relate what happened (someone who had been in
        >> the village only 40 years would be dismissed as an outsider who couldn't be
        >> trusted in such matters). When these 'informal' repeaters told the story
        >> some flexibility was allowed around the less significant details. But like
        >> a good joke, they had to get the points of reference right (even if allowed
        >> some flexibility in the order) and when it came to the punch-line or
        >> punch-deed, it had to be verbatim. Any variation and the repeater would be
        >> immediately corrected by a chorus of rebuttal and suffer great loss of face.
        >> That in itself an excellent motivation to maintain the tradition. He cites
        >> examples where they could do this for stories about missionaries who visited
        >> their villages from almost two centuries before.
        > And again I would suggest that this in itself does not much support the
        > claim that the gospels are not literarily related. Since, in fact, several
        > of the "punch lines" do vary, and since lots of what is verbatim is not
        > "punch line" material.
        Fine, but let's not jump ahead too quickly. I'm sure we are both agreed
        that genre is THE key to interpretation. So the preeminent question concerns
        the genre of the gospels. Crossan wants to explain the gospels by factoring
        in the vagaries of memory and the need either to compensate or to
        substitute. But for those places where the punchline is identical or very
        nearly so, I would argue that Bailey's model offers a much better literary
        and cultural fit, and would strongly suggest that the earliest Palestinian
        Christians were very interested in preserving Jesus' key words and deeds.
        If so, then Crossan's assumption (a la Bultmann?) of creativity, at least
        for the stories under discussion, is highly problematic.
        Having established that, I'm then prepared to tackle the question of more
        significant variations in punchline.

        >> Perhaps you can see why I continue to stand by my critique of Crossan's
        >> discussion of memory as it relates to the oral traditions about Jesus'
        >> teaching and deeds. It is anachronistic and is unaware of how near eastern
        >> villagers actually preserve these kinds of traditions. I make no statement
        > Of how near eastern villages TODAY do so.
        Now now now. That's a bit rude. You seemed happy enough to accept
        Crossan's models without question and doggedly defended them against my
        suggestion that they might not only be culturally but also temporally
        problematic, derived largely as they were from 20th century US. I didn't
        hear a peep from you about the problems of temporal distance. Why suddenly
        now? It might be worth asking why this happens. But yes of course Bailey
        understands the temporal distance (at least culturally he's on much closer
        ground) and notes other indications that suggest a high degree of
        continuity. But, to return to your question, if this is a problem for
        Bailey--at least he's in the same cultural milieu--what does this say about
        >> about how such things would work in the Greco-roman world but at least for
        >> the early Palestinian Jesus movement this is the best evidence we have and
        >> it strongly affirms the notion of a persistent and accurate tradition.
        > But it fails to take other factors into account. That some traditions may
        > be, or are, preserved pretty accurately is a reasonable enough claim,
        > especially when they are restricted to, and pertain to, a fixed local area.
        > But as Bailey apparently notes, when it comes to "outside" stories, all
        > kinds of embellishment takes place. Thne Jesus traditions did not remain in
        > the towns in which the events in question occured -- they spread all over
        > the place. And moreover there were theological reasons to alter these stories.
        Not quite. Bailey talked about atrocity stories from outside. These of
        course travel like wildfire and because they are not considered significant
        for the village's identity are not carefully preserved. But if one is
        dealing with a story that concerns a village (or a group's) origins and
        identity then it is very different. On the one hand, one can imagine
        various villages remembering well the time when Jesus the prophet came to
        them. On the other, for a group whose identity and constituency transcends
        one village, being based not just on what happened in this village but the
        words and deeds of the Jesus in numerous villages, then one would expect the
        same kind of care might obtain. In other words its not so much the
        geographical datum (a single village centred on a locality) but the larger
        sociological one (a new group around Jesus) that is the key consideration.

        >> Again I should have thought the reasons for these criteria would have been
        >> obvious; after all one of the great contributions of the so-called third
        >> quest has been its concern with the Jewishness of Jesus and the importance
        >> of locating him culturally. If not doing this led to all sorts of nonsense
        > And one of the great weaknesses of the third question has been its rigid and
        > ahistorical reification of Judaism, such that there is essentially only ONE
        > (and rather normative) Judaism (single and with a capital "j"), rather than
        > multiple and plural judaisms.
        - sorry but my experience is exactly the opposite. I can't even think of a
        recent historical Jesus/gospels scholar who thinks there was a single
        monolithic Judaism. That one was well and truly laid to rest when I was in
        grad school back in the mid eighties.

        >> in the earlier quests then not doing wrt formation of the documents of the
        >> Jesus movement is just as likely to result in equal nonsense. So let's
        >> compare apples with apples (and I think Crossan is comparing apples and
        >> oranges). My claim was that I know of no a) Jewish document outside the NT
        >> that b) invents recent history and c) calls this the fulfillment of
        >> scripture. (And by Jewish of course I don't mean specifically Jewish
        >> authorship but from out of a Jewish Weltanschauung).
        > This last line is EXACTLY the problem. You've already got a conception of a
        > Jewish Weltanschauung and what it can permit -- anything that goes beyond
        > this is not from a Jewish Weltanschauung! I'd also wonder whether it doesn't
        > beg the question insofar as it assumes that the Jesus movement must have
        > come out of this (rather rigid, I think) Weltanschauung. Why need this have
        > been case? There is too little complexity, still, I fear, in our
        > conceptualizations of what "Judaism" actually is.
        - yes of course I have a perception of what is or is not a Jewish
        Weltanschauung. Two issues here. What is that WS? This is why we do
        history. If you think I am being too tight, then argue the case.
        Demonstrate e.g. that other Jews did indeed invent recent history in order
        to argue for the fulfillment of Israel's story. I'm open. But nothing I've
        seen so far comes close to a convincing analogy. Second, how did they
        operate within their WS? I.e. Just because in the past no one else invented
        fulfillment stories does not mean they didn't. But now you have to show why
        it would have made sense to depart so radically from Jewish character. Law
        courts are often vitally concerned with assessing actions on the basis of
        what makes sense in a given setting, what is in and out of character. This
        does not mean that out of character actions cannot happen. BUT if I can
        make good sense of an action based on what is in character, why go
        elsewhere? On the other hand, I'm willing to consider alternatives, hence
        my question re inventing recent history to argue for fulfillment: explain to
        me how this would work (i.e. why they would want to jettison this and what
        it would prove) in their setting and I'll listen. But I can't for the life
        of me make any sense of a Jew trying to do this. I'm not asking for
        certainty only coherence. I think the view that they didn't engage in
        wholesale elaboration is far more in character and makes more sense
        historically and culturally. The fact that the message of the Christian
        church is so imbued with explicit and implicit indications of an invariably
        Jewish Weltanschauung (how often is Plato or Homer actually quoted?) is a
        fairly convincing indicator what they are operating in that horizon.
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