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RE: [XTalk] Miracles and modern historians

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  • Daniel Grolin
    Dear Sukie, Thank you for emerging shortly to reply:
    Message 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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 6 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 7 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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