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RE: [XTalk] Miracles and modern historians

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  • Sukie Curtis
    Bob, Gordon, Daniel, and others, My silence has been due to busy-ness, not disinterest, and even now I have only a sliver of time. But I ve enjoyed catching
    Message 1 of 30 , Feb 4, 2001
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      Bob, Gordon, Daniel, and others,

      My silence has been due to busy-ness, not disinterest, and even now I have
      only a sliver of time. But I've enjoyed catching up on parts of this
      thread.

      Daniel wrote:
      > BTW what is FWIW.
      >

      "For what it's worth!"

      Daniel, citing me:

      > And those kinds
      > of acts were profoundly healing acts, precipitating stories or at least
      > the claim that Jesus did deeds of power not unlike Elijah or Elisha.>
      >
      > Why? How? I think we are getting to bunked down into the cultural context
      > so that we are ignoring the more universal aspects. Why do people tell
      > miracle stories in general? There are tons of popular lore in newly
      > emerged religious communities that are in nature no different than the
      > what we find in the gospels.

      I don't know why people tell miracle stories "in general." And I think
      staying close to the biblical tradition of miracle stories makes more sense
      here than wandering into general miracle world. I'm sure there are plenty
      of stories in "newly emerged" traditions, but for stories/literature
      emerging from an existing religious tradition, even if from a newly-emerging
      sub-set, appeals to traditional models/types make very good sense, don't
      they?

      >
      > Actually I would say that faced with these two options I would rather
      > think that the central point was that "Jesus is a figure like
      > Elijah-Elisha."

      I'm happy with that.

      Thanks again.

      Sukie Curtis
      Cumberland Foreside, Maine
    • Daniel Grolin
      Dear Sukie, Thank you for emerging shortly to reply:
      Message 2 of 30 , Feb 5, 2001
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        Dear Sukie,

        Thank you for emerging shortly to reply:

        <I don't know why people tell miracle stories "in general." And I think
        staying close to the biblical tradition of miracle stories makes more
        sense here than wandering into general miracle world.>

        The problem is that we are so distant from the setting and the people that
        told (or, as Gordon would have it, constructed) these stories that we are
        very hard pressed for the details necessary to develop an explanatory
        model. Looking at contemporary cases presents the best way of developing
        solid models.

        < I'm sure there are plenty of stories in "newly emerged" traditions, but
        for stories/literature emerging from an existing religious tradition, even
        if from a newly-emerging sub-set, appeals to traditional models/types make
        very good sense, don't they?>

        Yes, it does. Now we need more specifics.

        Regards,

        Daniel
      • Karel Hanhart
        ... Dear Sukie and Gordon, In the span of a week some 13 exegetes contributed to the topic of healings and exorcisms in the Gospel. It demonstrates its
        Message 3 of 30 , Feb 13, 2001
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          Sukie Curtis wrote:

          > Welcome, Gordon! This is response is to both Gordon and Daniel.

          Dear Sukie and Gordon,

          In the span of a week some 13 exegetes contributed to the topic of healings and
          exorcisms in the Gospel. It demonstrates its importance for the interpretation.
          Perhaps Paul van Buren's remark that with the Gospel we are reading "someone
          else's mail" should be emphasized even more strongly. These miracle stories are
          told and read by people grounded in the Hebrew Scriptures that ruled their
          lives.
          I quite agree with Gordon that by distinguishing between nature wonders and
          healing wonders one circumvents the problem of authorial intent. The authors
          never warn the reader, for instance, that the healing of a leper should be
          taken literally and the rebuke of the storm wind and the commanding the sea,
          "Peace. Be still" be taken metaphorically. Every stupendous and contra-natural
          event is described as if it were self evident: a matter of course. Doesn't that
          indicate that all 'miracles' should be taken metaphorically while still grounded
          in history? The Gospels were written primarily for first century Jews (I name
          them Christians Judeans - ioudaioi; I believe that in exegesis one should
          choose an idiom matching the contemporary situation as much as possible). They
          were also written for baptized Gentiles or so-called Godfearers to meet their
          needs and thus reflect their historical circumstances. So may I offer some
          belated remarks?

          > >(Daniel) I think the definition that Crossan uses for miracle is excellent.
          > Now I
          > > want to emphasis that when I use the term miracle in historical discourse
          > > I am not the one who perceives the transcendental, but I do point out that
          > > the source does have this perspective.
          >
          > Yes, I see that. But I also see that a modern historian might reasonably
          > have two or three legitimate areas of exploration: 1) determining the
          > perspective of the source, 2) using social science/cross-cultural
          > anthropology, etc. to best reconstruct what the healing processes might have
          > included in that kind of setting (i.e., knowing Jesus hadn't been to med
          > school),

          I am in support of 1), but I wonder about "the med. school" in 2). For using the
          latter phrase
          one appears to assume that such stories deal with actual physical changes
          witnessed by the bystanders as amazing, contra-natural healings considered to be
          supernatural. Should the
          historical grounding really be based on a literal, stupendous healing that
          defied the laws of nature?
          Would the author in that case have described them in such a brief, matter of
          fact way on a par with walking on water?
          I quite agree with Gordon that by distinguishing between nature wonders and
          healing wonders one circumvents the problem of authorial intent. The authors
          never warn the reader that healing a leper
          (did the sores disappear forthwith?) should be taken literally and rebuking the
          storm wind and commanding the sea, "Peace. Be still" metaphorically. Every
          stupendous and contra-natural event occurs in the Gospel as being self-evident:
          a matter of course. This is true for a "very large stone" that was rolled away
          from a monumental tomb without human hands as for a lame man whom Jesus got back
          on his feet again.
          Most of us are more or less strangers to non-christian Jewish studies but
          many of us would readily agree, I think, that these riddlesome miracle stories
          could best be explained through midrash. For the Gospel writers indeed "went to
          the Hebrew Scriptures". I would also subscribe to Crossan's definition: "a
          miracle is a marvel that someone interprets as a transcendental action or
          manifestation". It is a social act (in its widest sense) attributed to divine
          power. That holds true for the so called impossible deed of Jesus' crossing the
          ":sea" (note that Mark doesn't use the Gr limne = lake) One should ask,
          therefore, to what Scripture this midrash refers. Gordon suggests Gen. 1, but
          why not the 'crossing of the sea of reeds? What is the historical context of the
          story?
          I would suggest that first of all we approach these riddlesome stories
          through 'controlled mudrash'. The exegesis should pass the controls of source-
          and redaction criticism and of rhetorical analysis and of the other hermeneutic
          disciplines. For instance, the exegesis of crossing the sea into Gentile
          territory should reflect, I think, the post-70 circumstances of the adressees.
          The crossing of the sea story is embedded in the structure of Mark's entire
          Gospel beginning with preparing the way of Adonay and ending with going ahead
          into the Galil (ha-goyim). It is a Passover haggadah.
          Because of the fall of Jerusalem and the subsequent, complete Roman domination
          of their homeland, the story would assure the reader in the ecclesia, I think,
          that Jesus Messiah is able to be with them in the Spirit even though he too had
          to succumb to a brutal death by the Romans. Thus the Way of Adonay will continue
          although secular reality gave the appearance of having created an impassable
          barrier for such a belief. Thus faith in the resurrection is expressed by means
          of a vivid narrative. It is grounded in history for it reflects the historical
          situation of the author and his addressees Walking on a stormy sea into Gentile
          territory and there healing a demon possessed soldier named Legion has become
          the model for the ecclesia that has just read the Exodus story.
          By using the Gr thalassa the author thus retrojects the post-30
          experiences of the early Christians into the lifetime of Jesus and his
          disciples. The story has thus a double layer - one referring to Jesus' own
          teachings and acts around Lake Kinneret [Sea of Galilee] and the teachings and
          acts of his followers in the diaspora around the Mediterranean Sea. They also
          were called to exorcise evil spirits. Would not the storm be a metaphor for the
          turbulent historical circumstances, that these first readers went through. One
          could paint the scene with two huge fires in the background.. In the winter of
          64-65 a great fire devastated large sections of the city of Rome. The crazy
          caesar Nero found the sect of the Christians guilty, as a kind of scapegoat.
          They were bitterly persecuted. If indeed John Mark had been in Rome at the time
          that event. it must have colored his message. The second fire was the burning
          down of the temple in Jerusalem, centre of learning, culture, and religion. And
          this would have been foremost in his mind. Was perhaps the great appeal, which
          the Gospel apparently had among Judeans and non-Judeans as well, due to the
          longing of many for a humane society and was this longing perhaps grounded in
          their faith in divine justice and mercy?.
          The crossing of the "sea" story would on the one hand reflect the divine
          salvation (a narrow escape from death) of the Exodus story, the addresses had
          read paired with the sure promise of the divine presence in their own future.
          This interpretation would match the story of "Legio", a Graecised Latin word
          for a Roman legion, (which incidentally had their camp in the Decapolis ) and
          the story of the daughter of Jaïrus on this side of "the sea". Read as midrash,
          the name Jaïrus in the latter subsequent story refers the reader to Yaïr of
          ancient days, one of the lesser known judges. The "villages of Yaïr" (f.i. 1 Ki
          4,13) were situated in the region West of Lake Kinneret, as the map of ancient
          geography tells us. The towns were actually called the "villages of Yaïr" and
          that name would be familiar to any Judean from the area, just as in our days
          local people take pride in one of their heroes of the past. The towns were the
          Judean counterparts of the Hellenic Dekapolis.

          > and 3) reconstructing the path of the narrative's creation, as
          > Gordon has done with his imagining the use of Hebrew scriptures, Elijah,
          > Elisha, etc. in the shape and contours of the stories of Jesus' healings. I
          > imagine something like that process Gordon describes to be at work in at
          > least some of the stories and perhaps generally so in all of them. I don't
          > imagine oral stories (if by that you mean oral reports of this or that
          > healing springing from an actual event) being behind the stories we have.
          > But reflecting patterns of "typical healings" I'm more willing to imagine
          > than Gordon.

          Were not - what you call - "typical healings" in reality haggadot illustrating
          prophecies such as in
          Isa 42,18; 43,8; 61,1?

          > > <If social acts can be in some way (and most likely more so than we're apt
          > > to think) healing, esp. of illness and sickness with a social dimension,
          > > and if social acts were probably a significant part of Jesus' activity,
          > > why wouldn't there be a connection between those social acts and healing
          > > stories?>
          > >
          > > I guess what I am missing is a well-monitored example in which we see how
          > > a specific social act (or specific set of social acts) is recounted as a
          > > miracle story. What I am looking for is something analogous to what Esler
          > > does with speaking in tongues in "The First Christians in their Social
          > > Worlds" combined with some oral transmission theory that again has some
          > > empirical studies behind it. What makes a person who sees social action
          > > tell miracle stories? If someone is afflicted with, say, blindness, and
          > > Jesus' teaching of mercy requires the Christian community to take care of
          > > blind (thus socially alleviating the illness) does the community start
          > > telling stories in which the blind becomes seeing? Mark's story about
          > > Bartimaeus is an example of a synthesis of both social aspect and powerful
          > > act.

          The Judean background of these stories (haggadot) could be illustrated with the
          story of
          Bartimaeus. I found the key to the story in the name itself. "Timaios" is not a
          Hebrew, but a Greek name; and Mark's readers, by now used to his ironic style,
          must have registered a signal by the author because this Greek name is prefaced
          by the Aramaic "bar-". Moreover, every intelligent Roman citizen would be
          familiar with Timaios, the title of one of Platos's major works. It is well
          known that Jews like to play with names. So also in the Gospel as in Saul-Paul -
          Cephas-Peter etc Thus the starting point for exegesis (its historical
          grounding) might well be that to Mark certain Judeans, seeking their salvation
          in vain in Greek philosophy, should learn to go the way of the cross. Bartimaeus
          is said to have "followed Jesus on the way" {to the cross}.
          Incidentally, I was struck by the fact that a colleague, the late Bas van
          Iersel, had independently come to the same conclusion about the odd name of
          Bartimaeus. A hypothesis is strengthened by a coincidence of that kind.
          Now the daughter of Jaïrus/Yaïr and bar-Timaeus are the only named persons
          'healed' by Jesus. That personal touch made me think for a long time that some
          kind of physical healing must have been at the historical bottom of the story.
          Midrash taught me otherwise. These very names, that make the story so vivid and
          concrete, turn out to be metaphors for a different historical situation which
          Mark sought to describe in which the Gospel proved to become a 'redeeming'
          factor, a dunamis that altered their lives.
          One last remark. Jesus was not, I think, an exorcist in the dictionary sense of
          the word.
          Mark clearly distinguishes between unclean spirits and demons. He is
          distinguishing, I think,
          between a 'not kosher' way of life causing an unhealthy spirit, not in accord
          with the Torah. and
          a phenomenon in Greek culture that in some sense might be equivalent to the
          biblical
          unclean spirit , namely daimon. One notices his continual battle with words
          trying to find
          a Greek equivalent for expressions in the Hebrew Bible. But the most significant
          aspect
          of the exorcist stories is the fact that Mark defines them as "a teaching":
          "They were all amazed...
          "What is this? A new teaching!" (1,28). He is making clear that he isn't trying
          to portray Jesus as an
          exorcist but is choosing that vocabulary to illustrate the effect of Jesus'
          teaching.

          yours cordially,

          Karel Hanhart K.Hanhart@...

          >

          >
          >
          > The healing of the leper in Mk. 1 seems to me a good example of a "social
          > act," that is, touching a not-to-be-touched leper, that effects healing.
          > It's even more clearly a socio/religio/political act, as there's the
          > suggestion of a sign against the priests (that this healing happened apart
          > from them). I don't think Jesus' social acts were as simple as teaching
          > mercy/taking care of the blind, as you put it; but ignoring or deliberately
          > crossing social/religious boundaries to touch, include, draw into his
          > community those on the outside. Or even simply to gather folks, who might
          > not normally eat together, to share food at someone's table. And those
          > kinds of acts were profoundly healing acts, precipitating stories or at
          > least the claim that Jesus did deeds of power not unlike Elijah or Elisha.
          >
          > > Except that what I see the evangelist doing is to allegorise the
          > > stories. The point of the stories in their oral stage must (like
          > > parables) be one pointed. The point is "Jesus can help you out of your
          > > current distress".
          >
          > That I don't agree with, neither that a parable must always be one-pointed,
          > not that the healing stories had to be. If they had one point, I'd say it
          > was: "Jesus is a doer of "deeds of power", and as Gordon suggests, if the
          > narrative echoes of Elijah help to make the point, so much the better.
          > [much snipped]
          >
          > >
          > > <"Dunamis" does not ONLY mean miracle, but much more frequently means
          > > simply "power," does it not?>
          > >
          > > I don't know that it is used "much more" as meaning power (I actually
          > > think less, but I haven't checked), however, "power" is certainly within
          > > its semantic field.
          >
          > Well, the concordance I have at home (Young's, keyed to the KJV) lists
          > dunamis used 77 times in the NT (about 25 in the synoptics and Acts) as
          > "power" and only 7 or 8 as "miracle" and another 7 or 8 as "mighty work>"
          >
          > [snipped]
          > >
          > > Yes I would. I don't think aretological narrative is the best genre to
          > > convey Jesus' social activity.
          > >
          > What's "aretological narrative"???
          >
          > Sukie Curtis
          > Cumberland Foreside, Maine
          >
          >
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        • tomkirbel@aol.com.au
          I found Karel Hanhart s treatment of the walking on water, the healing of Jairus daughter and the healing of Bartimaus very interesting. On closer
          Message 4 of 30 , Feb 14, 2001
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            I found Karel Hanhart's treatment of the walking on water, the healing of
            Jairus' daughter and the healing of Bartimaus very interesting. On closer
            examination, however, I think they illustrate exactly the problems I have
            with "midrash" interpretations in general, and lack of methodological
            transparency in particular. I hope a brief discussion of why I think this is
            so can help illustrate my point. Very briefly, my problem with the treatment
            of the Jairus and Bartimaus stories is that the refferences are too obscure
            for the treatment to be convincing. On the assumption that "Mark" intended
            to be understood in "creating" these stories, refferences ought to be easily
            understandible for his intended audience. The Jairus/villages of Jair
            refference is unlikely to have been understood outside of Galilee even if
            Karel's otherwise unsubtantiated speculation that that designation of the
            villages surrounding Gallilee was used in the 1st century is correct.
            Likewise, the refference to Plato's dialogue from Bartimaus is too obscure.
            If "Mark" was inventing a name, why choose the name of that dialogue? Why
            not some other dialogue, or better yet, some philosopher? Had the blindness
            of Barsocrates been healed, the exegesis would have been far clearer, both in
            "Mark"s time and in ours.

            This does not mean Karel's exigesis is wrong, only that as it stands it is ad
            hoc and unsubstantiated. The exigesis will remain ad hoc unless Karel can
            show us evidence of 1st century geographical refferences to the villages of
            Jair, or patristic commentaries drawing the allegorical interpretation
            regarding the following of greek philosophy that Karel finds in the Bartimaus
            story (indirect evidence that "Mark"s intended interpretation was understood
            in his time), or other related evidence. Until that time, the naive
            interpretation of these two passages would remain the simplest of the two,
            and therefore the preffered interpretation on general methodological grounds.

            Turning to the walking on water, Karel's interpretation is (I think) better
            subsantiated than Gordon's. At least it has some slight extended parallels
            in that both Jesus' and Moses' crossing the of the sea are preceded by meals,
            and both are succeded by an authoritative giving of/ interpretation of the
            law. But this is the extent of the parallels (that I can determine in
            english translation). If "Mark" was making a midrash on that theme we would
            expect the theme to be more thoroughly interwoven into the related passages.
            Stronger parrallels between passover and the feeding of the five thousand
            would be drawn (perhaps by a meal of loaves and roast lamb?). The law theme
            would have been more dominant in uncleaness dispute. Further lexical
            parralells would also be in evidence (and may be in the original languages
            for all I know). We would also have expected "Matthew", surely amongst
            "Marks" intended audience, to have picked up the theme and more appropriatly
            located the pericope given his known organisational principles.

            The point of all this is that in this story the midrashic interpretation is
            again ad hoc. It is not predicted by general theoretical considerations, and
            generates no new predictions about editorial or lexical features of the text.
            All that it "explains" are the slight parrallels that suggested the
            hypothesis in the first place. So again, the naive interpretation, because
            simpler, is better supported by the textual evidence.

            In contrast, the story of Jesus calming the sea seems on textual evidence to
            be a "midrash". The close parrallels between "Mark"s account of this
            incident and the equivalent story in Jonah are remarkable. The naive
            interpretation (that the events happened as described, and that "Mark"
            recorded them without refference to the Jonah story) is in consequence a
            non-starter because it fails to explain the close parrallels in the accounts.
            Three other theories might be considered: that the events happened
            approximatly as recorded and "Mark" relied on Jonah to help structure his
            story; that the events happened approximately as described, but that Jesus
            told the disciples (not the waves) to calm down, with the sea calming shortly
            after by conincidence, and the event was retold as recorded because of
            exaggeration and the use of Jonah to flesh out details; or no such event
            happened, but "Mark" (or source) invented the story based on Jonah to tell a
            theological point.

            Of these three theories I think the last is better supported by textual
            evidence. This is primarily (again) on the basis of simplicity because it
            posits one source (Jonah) whilst the other two posit two sources (an event
            and Jonah). If we accept the third theory, however, we should incline
            against the view that "Mark" invented the story. Expected parrallels in
            bracketing stories do not exist. This suggests that "Mark" found the
            pericope as an intact story from an earlier period (AD 50-60?). This, in
            turn, given that Jesus fills the roles of both Jonah and of God in this
            pericope has interesting implications on the development on christology.

            None of the three theories is contradicted by, or unreasonable in the face
            of, the textual evidence in this pericope, so any might be preffered for
            reasons beyond that textual evidence. We ought, however, to distinguish
            between the immediate evidence and the more general considerations that
            persuade us so that those who disagree with us on those more general
            considerations can still find our research in the particular case usefull.

            Regards,

            Tom Curtis



            In a message dated 2/14/01 11:13:32 E. Australia Standard Time,
            K.Hanhart@... writes:

            << Sukie Curtis wrote:

            > Welcome, Gordon! This is response is to both Gordon and Daniel.

            Dear Sukie and Gordon,

            In the span of a week some 13 exegetes contributed to the topic of healings
            and
            exorcisms in the Gospel. It demonstrates its importance for the
            interpretation.
            Perhaps Paul van Buren's remark that with the Gospel we are reading "someone
            else's mail" should be emphasized even more strongly. These miracle stories
            are
            told and read by people grounded in the Hebrew Scriptures that ruled their
            lives.
            I quite agree with Gordon that by distinguishing between nature wonders
            and
            healing wonders one circumvents the problem of authorial intent. The authors
            never warn the reader, for instance, that the healing of a leper should be
            taken literally and the rebuke of the storm wind and the commanding the sea,
            "Peace. Be still" be taken metaphorically. Every stupendous and
            contra-natural
            event is described as if it were self evident: a matter of course. Doesn't
            that
            indicate that all 'miracles' should be taken metaphorically while still
            grounded
            in history? The Gospels were written primarily for first century Jews (I
            name
            them Christians Judeans - ioudaioi; I believe that in exegesis one should
            choose an idiom matching the contemporary situation as much as possible).
            They
            were also written for baptized Gentiles or so-called Godfearers to meet their
            needs and thus reflect their historical circumstances. So may I offer some
            belated remarks?

            > >(Daniel) I think the definition that Crossan uses for miracle is
            excellent.
            > Now I
            > > want to emphasis that when I use the term miracle in historical discourse
            > > I am not the one who perceives the transcendental, but I do point out
            that
            > > the source does have this perspective.
            >
            > Yes, I see that. But I also see that a modern historian might reasonably
            > have two or three legitimate areas of exploration: 1) determining the
            > perspective of the source, 2) using social science/cross-cultural
            > anthropology, etc. to best reconstruct what the healing processes might
            have
            > included in that kind of setting (i.e., knowing Jesus hadn't been to med
            > school),

            I am in support of 1), but I wonder about "the med. school" in 2). For using
            the
            latter phrase
            one appears to assume that such stories deal with actual physical changes
            witnessed by the bystanders as amazing, contra-natural healings considered
            to be
            supernatural. Should the
            historical grounding really be based on a literal, stupendous healing that
            defied the laws of nature?
            Would the author in that case have described them in such a brief, matter of
            fact way on a par with walking on water?
            I quite agree with Gordon that by distinguishing between nature wonders and
            healing wonders one circumvents the problem of authorial intent. The authors
            never warn the reader that healing a leper
            (did the sores disappear forthwith?) should be taken literally and rebuking
            the
            storm wind and commanding the sea, "Peace. Be still" metaphorically. Every
            stupendous and contra-natural event occurs in the Gospel as being
            self-evident:
            a matter of course. This is true for a "very large stone" that was rolled
            away
            from a monumental tomb without human hands as for a lame man whom Jesus got
            back
            on his feet again.
            Most of us are more or less strangers to non-christian Jewish studies but
            many of us would readily agree, I think, that these riddlesome miracle
            stories
            could best be explained through midrash. For the Gospel writers indeed "went
            to
            the Hebrew Scriptures". I would also subscribe to Crossan's definition: "a
            miracle is a marvel that someone interprets as a transcendental action or
            manifestation". It is a social act (in its widest sense) attributed to divine
            power. That holds true for the so called impossible deed of Jesus' crossing
            the
            ":sea" (note that Mark doesn't use the Gr limne = lake) One should ask,
            therefore, to what Scripture this midrash refers. Gordon suggests Gen. 1, but
            why not the 'crossing of the sea of reeds? What is the historical context of
            the
            story?
            I would suggest that first of all we approach these riddlesome stories
            through 'controlled mudrash'. The exegesis should pass the controls of
            source-
            and redaction criticism and of rhetorical analysis and of the other
            hermeneutic
            disciplines. For instance, the exegesis of crossing the sea into Gentile
            territory should reflect, I think, the post-70 circumstances of the
            adressees.
            The crossing of the sea story is embedded in the structure of Mark's entire
            Gospel beginning with preparing the way of Adonay and ending with going
            ahead
            into the Galil (ha-goyim). It is a Passover haggadah.
            Because of the fall of Jerusalem and the subsequent, complete Roman
            domination
            of their homeland, the story would assure the reader in the ecclesia, I
            think,
            that Jesus Messiah is able to be with them in the Spirit even though he too
            had
            to succumb to a brutal death by the Romans. Thus the Way of Adonay will
            continue
            although secular reality gave the appearance of having created an impassable
            barrier for such a belief. Thus faith in the resurrection is expressed by
            means
            of a vivid narrative. It is grounded in history for it reflects the
            historical
            situation of the author and his addressees Walking on a stormy sea into
            Gentile
            territory and there healing a demon possessed soldier named Legion has become
            the model for the ecclesia that has just read the Exodus story.
            By using the Gr thalassa the author thus retrojects the post-30
            experiences of the early Christians into the lifetime of Jesus and his
            disciples. The story has thus a double layer - one referring to Jesus' own
            teachings and acts around Lake Kinneret [Sea of Galilee] and the teachings
            and
            acts of his followers in the diaspora around the Mediterranean Sea. They also
            were called to exorcise evil spirits. Would not the storm be a metaphor for
            the
            turbulent historical circumstances, that these first readers went through.
            One
            could paint the scene with two huge fires in the background.. In the winter
            of
            64-65 a great fire devastated large sections of the city of Rome. The crazy
            caesar Nero found the sect of the Christians guilty, as a kind of scapegoat.
            They were bitterly persecuted. If indeed John Mark had been in Rome at the
            time
            that event. it must have colored his message. The second fire was the burning
            down of the temple in Jerusalem, centre of learning, culture, and religion.
            And
            this would have been foremost in his mind. Was perhaps the great appeal,
            which
            the Gospel apparently had among Judeans and non-Judeans as well, due to the
            longing of many for a humane society and was this longing perhaps grounded in
            their faith in divine justice and mercy?.
            The crossing of the "sea" story would on the one hand reflect the divine
            salvation (a narrow escape from death) of the Exodus story, the addresses had
            read paired with the sure promise of the divine presence in their own
            future.
            This interpretation would match the story of "Legio", a Graecised Latin
            word
            for a Roman legion, (which incidentally had their camp in the Decapolis ) and
            the story of the daughter of Jaïrus on this side of "the sea". Read as
            midrash,
            the name Jaïrus in the latter subsequent story refers the reader to Yaïr of
            ancient days, one of the lesser known judges. The "villages of Yaïr" (f.i. 1
            Ki
            4,13) were situated in the region West of Lake Kinneret, as the map of
            ancient
            geography tells us. The towns were actually called the "villages of Yaïr" and
            that name would be familiar to any Judean from the area, just as in our days
            local people take pride in one of their heroes of the past. The towns were
            the
            Judean counterparts of the Hellenic Dekapolis.

            > and 3) reconstructing the path of the narrative's creation, as
            > Gordon has done with his imagining the use of Hebrew scriptures, Elijah,
            > Elisha, etc. in the shape and contours of the stories of Jesus' healings.
            I
            > imagine something like that process Gordon describes to be at work in at
            > least some of the stories and perhaps generally so in all of them. I don't
            > imagine oral stories (if by that you mean oral reports of this or that
            > healing springing from an actual event) being behind the stories we have.
            > But reflecting patterns of "typical healings" I'm more willing to imagine
            > than Gordon.

            Were not - what you call - "typical healings" in reality haggadot
            illustrating
            prophecies such as in
            Isa 42,18; 43,8; 61,1?

            > > <If social acts can be in some way (and most likely more so than we're
            apt
            > > to think) healing, esp. of illness and sickness with a social dimension,
            > > and if social acts were probably a significant part of Jesus' activity,
            > > why wouldn't there be a connection between those social acts and healing
            > > stories?>
            > >
            > > I guess what I am missing is a well-monitored example in which we see how
            > > a specific social act (or specific set of social acts) is recounted as a
            > > miracle story. What I am looking for is something analogous to what Esler
            > > does with speaking in tongues in "The First Christians in their Social
            > > Worlds" combined with some oral transmission theory that again has some
            > > empirical studies behind it. What makes a person who sees social action
            > > tell miracle stories? If someone is afflicted with, say, blindness, and
            > > Jesus' teaching of mercy requires the Christian community to take care of
            > > blind (thus socially alleviating the illness) does the community start
            > > telling stories in which the blind becomes seeing? Mark's story about
            > > Bartimaeus is an example of a synthesis of both social aspect and
            powerful
            > > act.

            The Judean background of these stories (haggadot) could be illustrated with
            the
            story of
            Bartimaeus. I found the key to the story in the name itself. "Timaios" is
            not a
            Hebrew, but a Greek name; and Mark's readers, by now used to his ironic
            style,
            must have registered a signal by the author because this Greek name is
            prefaced
            by the Aramaic "bar-". Moreover, every intelligent Roman citizen would be
            familiar with Timaios, the title of one of Platos's major works. It is well
            known that Jews like to play with names. So also in the Gospel as in
            Saul-Paul -
            Cephas-Peter etc Thus the starting point for exegesis (its historical
            grounding) might well be that to Mark certain Judeans, seeking their
            salvation
            in vain in Greek philosophy, should learn to go the way of the cross.
            Bartimaeus
            is said to have "followed Jesus on the way" {to the cross}.
            Incide
          • Karel Hanhart
            Dear Tom, Thank you for your reply. Let me preface your comments by stating that I recently joined X-talk but contributed to the L-Synoptic list. I referred
            Message 5 of 30 , Feb 15, 2001
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              Dear Tom,

              Thank you for your reply. Let me preface your comments by stating that I recently
              joined
              X-talk but contributed to the L-Synoptic list. I referred there to my study of
              Mark, The Open Tomb - a New Approach. Mark's Passover Haggadah (± 72 CE),
              Liturgical Press, Collegeville MN
              USA. Re: my methodology I would refer you to that publication.

              tomkirbel@... wrote:

              > I found Karel Hanhart's treatment of the walking on water, the healing of
              > Jairus' daughter and the healing of Bartimaus very interesting. On closer
              > examination, however, I think they illustrate exactly the problems I have
              > with "midrash" interpretations in general, and lack of methodological
              > transparency in particular.

              You are quite right. One must first study the phenomenon of midrash
              in order to try to apply this kind of approach to Scripture. I also would
              like to repeat that we should pursue "controlled midrash". The exegesis should
              pass the controls of
              source- and redaction criticism and of rhetorical analysis and of the other
              hermeneutic methods to revover the original meaning in as far as that is possible.

              > Very briefly, my problem with the treatment
              > of the Jairus and Bartimaus stories is that the refferences are too obscure
              > for the treatment to be convincing.

              Why obscure? The religious, cultural and political situation of these small
              Judean
              towns and villages in the region with the biblical name "villages of Yaïr" was
              precarious surrounded as they were by the Ten Cities in which Hellenic culture
              where 'foreign' religions were practiced and enemy forces were encamped.

              > On the assumption that "Mark" intended to be understood in "creating" these

              > stories, refferences ought to be easily
              > understandible for his intended audience.

              It is my assumption that Mark did not write for the general public but for
              the celebration of Pesach by the early Christians. The stories were read
              for the worshipers, children and adults, the uneducated and the literate.
              Like all the stories in Scriptures they were told in a vivid manner that children
              could easily understand. But the local presbyter would be the person to
              interpret the metaphors in the stories. Names like Jaïrus and Bartimaeus
              signaled the educated reader to search for the deeper meaning of the
              story.

              The Jairus/villages of Jair

              > refference is unlikely to have been understood outside of Galilee even if
              > Karel's otherwise unsubtantiated speculation that that designation of the
              > villages surrounding Gallilee was used in the 1st century is correct.

              One rule I followed is that in midrash one searches first of all for a reference
              to the
              Hebrew Scripture that would apply to the text. In this case the "villages of Yaïr"

              would fit the requirement of the name (Gr Iaïros) would match the Hebrew Yaïr
              the two regions would match and a Roman legion was indeed located in the
              Decapolis.

              > Likewise, the refference to Plato's dialogue from Bartimaus is too obscure.
              > If "Mark" was inventing a name, why choose the name of that dialogue?

              The "Timaios" was a well known, much debated and authoritative work by Plato.
              Both the author of Mark and at least some of his bi-lingual readers were educated
              in the Greek language and in rhetoric. Plato's works were read and studied in
              the grammar schools.

              > Turning to the walking on water, Karel's interpretation is (I think) better
              > subsantiated than Gordon's. At least it has some slight extended parallels
              > in that both Jesus' and Moses' crossing the of the sea are preceded by meals,
              > and both are succeded by an authoritative giving of/ interpretation of the
              > law.

              In your reply you do allow for midrashic references to Scripture; to the
              Exodus story and to Jonah. I wonder if you still want differentiate between
              healings with at its core should be taken literally and so-called nature
              miracles which alone may .be interpreted as metaphors?.

              > But this is the extent of the parallels (that I can determine in
              > english translation). If "Mark" was making a midrash on that theme we would
              > expect the theme to be more thoroughly interwoven into the related passages.
              > Stronger parrallels between passover and the feeding of the five thousand
              > would be drawn (perhaps by a meal of loaves and roast lamb?). The law theme
              > would have been more dominant in uncleaness dispute. Further lexical
              > parralells would also be in evidence (and may be in the original languages
              > for all I know). We would also have expected "Matthew", surely amongst
              > "Marks" intended audience, to have picked up the theme and more appropriatly
              > located the pericope given his known organisational principles.
              >
              > The point of all this is that in this story the midrashic interpretation is
              > again ad hoc. It is not predicted by general theoretical considerations, and
              > generates no new predictions about editorial or lexical features of the text.
              > All that it "explains" are the slight parrallels that suggested the
              > hypothesis in the first place. So again, the naive interpretation, because
              > simpler, is better supported by the textual evidence.

              The stories appear naive because they were intended also and first of
              all for the children in the congregation. As such they can still
              validly be taught to children. Our problem is the interpretation and application
              by adults.

              I hope this has clarified my exegesis somewhat.

              your
              Karel K.Hanhart@...
            • tomkirbel@aol.com.au
              Karel, thankyou also for your reply. Obviously I am unable to make detailed comment on your theory until I have read your book (which unfortunatly I will not
              Message 6 of 30 , Feb 15, 2001
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                Karel, thankyou also for your reply. Obviously I am unable to make detailed
                comment on your theory until I have read your book (which unfortunatly I will
                not be able to do in the near future). I commented on your interpretation
                not to specificly criticise it, but to use it as an example of how I think
                research ought to be done on methodological grounds. I did this as part of
                my debate with Antonio Jerez. Though I reffered to your interpretations as
                ad hoc, obviously I do not know without reading your book whether that is a
                fair description.

                For the record, I also do not think there are goood grounds in method for
                treating healing and nature miracles distinctly. Given the possibility of
                "psycho-somatic cures" there may be good ground in fact, but we should find
                evidence of that in our sources without introducing it as a methodological
                assumption. Of course, and this is the nub of my debate with Antonio, I
                don't think we should exclude the possibility of miracles happening as a
                methodological assumption. We should instead find the evidence in our
                sources that they did not (or, if that is the case, that they did).

                I am debating Antonio on this point because I think that using methodological
                naturalism: 1) can result in a failure to properly test theories against
                evidence; 2) alienates from the debate people who have a legitimate interest
                in that debate; and 3) for those (such as myself) for whom theism is still a
                live option, it precludes the evidence generated from being used as a test of
                theism.

                With regard to your theory, a test I would very like to see is the extent to
                which your midrashes survive (as allegorical interpretations) in commentaries
                by the early church fathers. Your theory, if I understand you, posits a
                tradition amongst presbyters which allows them to supply the "adult"
                interpretation. Such a tradition would, all else being equal, survive and be
                transmuted into allegorical interpretation, and the survival of such a
                tradition can be tested for. If you have already examined this possibility,
                I would be very interested to know the results.

                Thankyou again,

                Tom Curtis
              • Karel Hanhart
                ... As an ecumenically oriented pastor/theologian I am also approaching the Gospel from a faith perspective I believe the haggadot (stories) in the Hebrew
                Message 7 of 30 , Feb 20, 2001
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                  tomkirbel@... wrote:

                  > Karel, thankyou also for your reply. Obviously I am unable to make detailed
                  > comment on your theory until I have read your book (which unfortunatly I will
                  > not be able to do in the near future). I commented on your interpretation
                  > not to specificly criticise it, but to use it as an example of how I think
                  > research ought to be done on methodological grounds. I did this as part of
                  > my debate with Antonio Jerez. Though I reffered to your interpretations as
                  > ad hoc, obviously I do not know without reading your book whether that is a
                  > fair description.
                  >
                  > For the record, I also do not think there are goood grounds in method for
                  > treating healing and nature miracles distinctly. Given the possibility of
                  > "psycho-somatic cures" there may be good ground in fact, but we should find
                  > evidence of that in our sources without introducing it as a methodological
                  > assumption. Of course, and this is the nub of my debate with Antonio, I
                  > don't think we should exclude the possibility of miracles happening as a
                  > methodological assumption. We should instead find the evidence in our
                  > sources that they did not (or, if that is the case, that they did).
                  >
                  > I am debating Antonio on this point because I think that using methodological
                  > naturalism: 1) can result in a failure to properly test theories against
                  > evidence; 2) alienates from the debate people who have a legitimate interest
                  > in that debate; and 3) for those (such as myself) for whom theism is still a
                  > live option, it precludes the evidence generated from being used as a test of
                  > theism.

                  As an ecumenically oriented pastor/theologian I am also approaching the Gospel
                  from a faith perspective I believe the haggadot (stories) in the Hebrew Bible
                  and in the Gospels
                  are meant to point to the working of the Spirit through a surprising and
                  arresting 'miraculous' narrative which the author didnot intend to be taken
                  literally. He rather would want his readers to awaken their faith in the working
                  of the Spirit (in the case of the Gospels through Jesus).in certain situations
                  (e.g. the relation of Judeans and Samaritans).
                  Risking a modern modern example: I would regard a sudden peaceful solution to the
                  conflict in the
                  Middle East to be a miracle; but I would not regard a story about a sudden and
                  mysterious rebuilding of the Temple on Mt Zion or the sudden appearance of
                  Mohammed on that site to be a miracle story.
                  .

                  > With regard to your theory, a test I would very like to see is the extent to
                  > which your midrashes survive (as allegorical interpretations) in commentaries
                  > by the early church fathers.

                  An allegory is something quite different from a midrash even though a midrash can
                  be an allegory.
                  The 'changing from water into wine' f.i. is in my view both a midrash and an
                  allegory.

                  The problem with the evidence from the Fathers is the fact that they were not
                  Jews. By then the
                  fall of Jerusalem was approached in an anti-judaic manner, as punishment by God.
                  To John Mark
                  and his Judean readers. The Roman conquest and the destruction of the temple was
                  a disaster that had come over them as over all Judeans that cried out for a
                  theodice. The open tomb ending was Mark's answer. To the Fathers the destruction
                  of the temple did not touch them existentially. To them it was 'simply' a divine
                  confirmation of their christology and ecclesiology, which was denied in the
                  synagogue. The anti-judaism of the Church Fathers has come to the fore in many
                  publications and need not be repeated here. In my book I demonstrated
                  confirmation of my midrashic exegesis of the open tomb in the Epistle of
                  Barnabas..
                  yours cordially,


                  Karel
                • Bob Schacht
                  ... Now, to be sure, Anderson and Stark are referring to the hoi polloi, not the Fathers. Nevertheless, it seems to me like you have turned significant border
                  Message 8 of 30 , Feb 20, 2001
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                    At 04:26 PM 2/20/01 +0100, Karel Hanhart wrote:

                    >...The problem with the evidence from the Fathers is the fact that they
                    >were not Jews. By then the fall of Jerusalem was approached in an
                    >anti-judaic manner, as punishment by God. To John Mark and his Judean
                    >readers. The Roman conquest and the destruction of the temple was a
                    >disaster that had come over them as over all Judeans that cried out for a
                    >theodice. The open tomb ending was Mark's answer. To the Fathers the
                    >destruction of the temple did not touch them existentially. To them it was
                    >'simply' a divine
                    >confirmation of their christology and ecclesiology, which was denied in
                    >the synagogue. The anti-judaism of the Church Fathers has come to the fore
                    >in many publications and need not be repeated here. ...

                    Well, I'm not so sure. Richard Anderson wrote on another list:

                    >In my paper Rodney Stark and the Ending of Acts, available on my web page,
                    >I stated:
                    >Rodney Stark, using his solid background in the sociology of religion, has
                    >shown that the mission to the Jews probably succeeded.(3) Furthermore, the
                    >principle of cultural continuity and the principle that 'Social movement
                    >grow much faster when they spread through social network'(4) does provide a
                    >partial explanation for the explosive growth of Christianity. The network
                    >growth rate exhibited by Christianity has been confirmed by the Mormon
                    >example.(5) Stark has shown that 'Christianity offered twice as much
                    >cultural continuity to the Hellenized Jews as to Gentiles.'(6) Stark stated,
                    >and his conclusion is well documented, 'that not only was it the Jews of the
                    >diaspora who provided the initial basis for the church growth during the
                    >first and early second centuries, but that Jews continued as a significant
                    >source of Christian converts until at least as late as the fourth century
                    >and that Jewish Christianity was still significant in the fifth century.'(7)
                    >fn3: Rodney Stark, The Rise of Christianity, (Princeton 1996), 49-71.
                    >fn4: Stark, 55.
                    >fn5: Stark, 18, 56.
                    >fn6: Stark, 59.
                    >fn6: Stark, 49.
                    >Daniel Boyarin, Dying for God said that there were significant intercultural
                    >border crossings between Christianity and Judaism up until the 5th century
                    >essentially agreeing with Rodney Stark without mentioning him and using
                    >different data.
                    >However, I think you would need to read Danielou, The Theology of Jewish
                    >Christianity, and other works on Jewish Christianity to obtain answers to
                    >some of your specific questions....
                    >
                    >Richard H. Anderson
                    >Wallingford PA
                    >http://www.geocities.com/gospelofluke

                    Now, to be sure, Anderson and Stark are referring to the hoi polloi, not
                    the Fathers. Nevertheless, it seems to me like you have turned "significant
                    border crossings" into a chasm, and have thereby have perhaps exaggerated
                    the differences.

                    Bob
                    Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
                    Northern Arizona University
                    Flagstaff, AZ


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