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Re: Healing Stories

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  • Gordon Raynal
    Bob, I am in a rush again this a.m., but thank you for the chat and just a few remarks: 1. I am not undone if Jesus was an exorcist/ healer, I simply remain
    Message 1 of 20 , Feb 5, 2001
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      Bob,

      I am in a rush again this a.m., but thank you for the chat and just a
      few remarks:

      1. I am not undone if Jesus was an exorcist/ healer, I simply remain
      unconvinced that the data base you cite from the Jesus Seminar consensus
      gives historical evidence for that.
      2. Pardon my knowledge or lack thereof of email protocols, but CAPS are
      not meant as shouting but for emphasis sake. I'm only a year and a half
      old emailer... and all the conventions are not clear to me.
      3. Hal Taussig, a Jesus Seminar Fellow, writes of just a brief overview
      of his disagreement with the JS consensus, Crossan and Borg in "Jesus
      Before God." This very brief sketch will not provide the detail you are
      seeking in accounting a review of the relevant text, but his
      introduction in this thought provoking work does sketch out his overall
      portrait of Jesus and addresses the issue of healing. Just one note
      from pg. 31 that is only a summary statement: "I do not think that Jesus
      was one of those healers. The anthropological studies about these
      healers show that they are not teachers." His proposal and mine, too,
      is that this is a modest proposal.
      4. Last evening I reviewed one rendition of the first layer of Q (in
      Burton Mack's volume on Q) and the beginning of Mark up through where
      the 12 are formed in Chapter 3. If you at all accept something like Q1
      as Mack proposes, there are no healing stories in this layer of
      tradition. There is "the mission statement," but I find actually
      helpful the general way Mack translates the interaction with those who
      are ill. It is a "tending to" language. (I will understand if you
      think that both of these points are not acceptable to you, but I regard
      them as both important. Taussig will say that there were healers and
      exorcists among the earliest followers, but that we simply do not have
      evidence that Jesus was an exorcist/ healer.) In the later layers of Q
      we do get healing stories. The one that comes first is the one that
      comes after the opening sermon where Jesus is confronted by a Roman
      centurion on behalf of a favorite servant. There is dialogue and then
      Jesus upon hearing "the faith testimony" WITH A WORD (emphasis) says to
      go because he has been healed. This story is a fine example of the
      Kingdom Power that Jesus commands.

      As we move into Mark... we see the same. Notably in the first exorcism
      "the key character" (so to speak) is the demon who knows Jesus' real
      identity. The context in the synagogue is over authority... and Jesus
      has authority as do not the Scribes. The exorcism dramatizes this. The
      stories that follow line up in similar fashion. The Peter's house/
      mother-in-law story is about "localizing the mission" and Petrine
      position. The healing is with just saying "get up." And on as these
      first stories go... it is noted that persons and demons "are to hush
      up!" This all fits beautifully with one of Canonical Mark's theological
      motifs... the dawning of the KOG and the necessity of keeping "the
      Messianic Secret" until all is revealed. Beautiful theology and I like
      it! But history, I must conclude, "no."

      I must run now, but we can also get into the art of midrash more fully.
      For now I again just ask you to think about the way I spoke of it...
      Direct working out of specific stories, Prophetic Fulfillment that
      dramatizes how Jesus fulfilled the prophets of old, and General/ or
      Broad Theological Fulfillment where theological and/ or ethical themes
      from the Hebrew Scriptures are dramatized with Wonder Stories. I
      understand all of this in terms of what can be called the Midrashic
      Imagination. Such functions by reflecting on received tradition...
      connecting it to HJ... and dramatizing that in narrative form.

      Well must run...

      Gordon
    • Antonio Jerez
      ... Though I have often had arguments in the past with Bob Schacht about the historical veracity of many parts of the NT, I feel sympathy for his positition on
      Message 2 of 20 , Feb 5, 2001
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        Nichael Cramer wrote:

        > In light of this let me rephrase my question:
        >
        > For what other ancient text would we consider it acceptable
        > historical methodology to begin by assuming that a report of
        > a supernatural event were anything except a "literary invention"?

        Though I have often had arguments in the past with Bob Schacht about the
        historical veracity of many parts of the NT, I feel sympathy for his positition
        on this particular matter. I agree that Gordon Raynal's claim that ALL healing
        and miracle stories are pure metaphorical midrash without any grounding in
        any historical happening is simplistic in the extreme. Gordon is on the right track
        when it comes to the nature miracles - like Jesus walking on water and stilling the
        storm - but out on a limb when talking about the exorcism stories.
        Nichael Cramer asks a rather strange question. I am not a Christian, do not believe
        in the supernatural and study the the gospels as a secular historian. A historian does
        not rule out beforehand a report from an ancient text that that contains supernatural
        elements as a total literary invention. Nichael is also being extremely simplistic. The fact
        that a healing story like Mark 1:21-28 mentions a man being possessed by demons does
        not automatically mean that the historical Jesus could not have had a real encounter with
        a man which he and his firstcentury BELIEVED was demonpossessed Just because we
        moderns don't give a certain event the same interpretation that the ancients did does not
        mean that the event doesn't have anything historical over it at all.
        That said I must admit that the miracle stories in the gospels are often treated with a
        seriousness that is often laughable by the kind of pseudohistorians that are all too common
        in the exegetical guild. Why even bother to try to argue for anything historical behind a story
        like Jesus walking on water or the raising of Lazarus? Still we find scholar after scholar in
        commentary after commentary going to ridiculous lengths to argue that there may be something
        behind the event after all. The last time I had this unpleasant experience was when reading Craig
        Keener's recent commentary on Matthew. Here he digs up dozens of litterary parallels from ancient
        litterature about people walking miraculously on water and the man still doesn't want to admit that
        we are dealing with pure metaphorical "midrash". That said, though I was often angered by the
        dumbness of many of Keeners arguments, I must recommend his commentary because it is a goldmine
        for anybody interested in finding out about the literary parallels in pagan and jewish litterature to the
        gospel stories.

        Best wishes

        Antonio Jerez
        Göteborg, Sweden
      • Stephen C. Carlson
        ... I m afraid you two might be talking past each other. Bob is talking about prophecy historicized ; Nichael is talking about supernatural events. These
        Message 3 of 20 , Feb 5, 2001
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          At 11:05 AM 2/5/01 -0500, Nichael Cramer wrote:
          >Bob Schacht wrote:
          >> It is completely unacceptable methodology,
          >>IMHO, to *assume* a priori that every incident presented as scripture
          >>fulfillment is ipso facto *merely* a literary invention copying from the
          >>scriptural model. Your opening sentences seem to suggest such a blanket
          >>conclusion.
          >
          >In light of this let me rephrase my question:
          >
          >For what other ancient text would we consider it acceptable
          >historical methodology to begin by assuming that a report of
          >a supernatural event were anything except a "literary invention"?

          I'm afraid you two might be talking past each other. Bob is
          talking about "prophecy historicized"; Nichael is talking
          about supernatural events. These two categories are not
          co-terminous and, in fact, include many different episodes.
          For example, Jesus's riding on a donkey into Jerusalem is
          not a supernatural event, but a good candidate for prophecy
          historicized.

          Stephen Carlson
          --
          Stephen C. Carlson mailto:scarlson@...
          Synoptic Problem Home Page http://www.mindspring.com/~scarlson/synopt/
          "Poetry speaks of aspirations, and songs chant the words." Shujing 2.35
        • Bob Schacht
          ... You are still confusing the specifics of the event with the interpretation of the event, something that the Jesus Seminar is careful to avoid. To take the
          Message 4 of 20 , Feb 5, 2001
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            At 11:05 AM 2/5/01 -0500, Nichael Cramer wrote:
            >...In light of this let me rephrase my question:
            >
            >For what other ancient text would we consider it acceptable
            >historical methodology to begin by assuming that a report of
            >a supernatural event were anything except a "literary invention"?

            You are still confusing the specifics of the event with the interpretation
            of the event, something that the Jesus Seminar is careful to avoid. To take
            the example I gave of Mark 5:25, I quoted the JSem as follows:
            "There was a woman who suffered from vaginal hemorrhaging. She touched
            Jesus' cloak and the bleeding stopped instantly."

            Note well that the Jesus Seminar is not claiming that Jesus performed a
            miracle. In fact, they are not claiming that Jesus did anything at all. In
            fact, there is nothing supernatural about this account, in the bare bones
            JSem phrasing of the historical core of the event. The supernatural part
            comes in the *interpretation* of the bare facts. You, apparently, cannot
            help but *read into* the account something supernatural.

            So in general the claim for historicity of these passages is merely this:
            something happened, and it was interpreted as a miracle (or a healing, or a
            sign, or whatever other word of interpretation). There is nothing
            supernatural about this claim for historicity. Both (what was observed,
            what people said) are historically accessible data that are the routine
            stuff of ancient history. Whether the interpretation imposed on the
            observations was correct or not is quite another matter.

            > > ... I would urge you to become familiar, at
            > >your first opportunity, with both The Five Gospels and The Acts of Jesus,
            > >and you will see what I mean.
            >
            >Actually I am quite familar with both these texts.

            You may possess both these texts, but you do not seem to have read them
            very closely. The JSem is very careful about its choice of words in the
            historical claims it makes. I urge you to take another look.

            Best regards,
            Bob




            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Gordon Raynal
            Antonio, The important word in this post is could. Of course the healing wonder stories could suggest that Jesus was a healer. And as I noted yesterday
            Message 5 of 20 , Feb 6, 2001
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              Antonio,

              The important word in this post is "could." Of course the healing
              wonder stories "could" suggest that Jesus was a healer. And as I noted
              yesterday I'm not an unhappy person if this is true. But the stories of
              healings and exorcisms do not come to us as "touched up" (to use
              photographic technique language) stories. They come as wonder stories
              whose purpose is theological. In the case of this pericope the demon(s)
              know who Jesus really is... the crowds get that he teaches with an
              authority unlike those of religious establishment... the demon knows
              that truth and from whence the authority comes! Now behind this "could"
              be an exorcism that the story telling tradition changed to proclaim
              theology, but exactly how by historical methodology can you make that
              judgment? Again, as a Christian, I have no problem with this story as a
              beautiful example of theological proclamation... the ancient form of
              dramatizing the parabler Jesus become the PARABLE OF GOD. This, like
              all these stories, is rich fodder for theological reflection. It fits
              into Mark's theological framework and it forms an important part of the
              whole witness. But this story does not get me any closer than "could,"
              and if you will read Taussig's little introduction he will suggest why
              that "could," to use Jesus Seminar lingo, deserves "a Gray bead," in my book.

              Beyond this, I find fascinating the move to define the illnesses cited
              in post Freudian "psycho-somatic terms," then proceed to delve into how
              Jesus was an effective healer of these sorts of illnesses. This is
              surely a fascinating modern preoccupation! Having spent over a decade
              working in a psychiatric unit at a teaching medical university and
              having worked with patients who have "conversion disorders," and yes,
              having seen blindness, lameness overcome and such as rashes relieved...
              those who truly fit the diagnostic standards for a conversion disorder
              are very complex cases. The actual recovery is not instantaneous
              (symptom relief sometimes is, yes, but not serious recovery) and I never
              saw an actual case be relieved without psychotropic medications and then
              serious and long term follow-up. To be sure... I imagine that being in
              the presence of wise, justice and peace loving Jesus was "healing" in
              the broad sense of that. The long term effects of being involved in a
              reconciliation movement surely had positive psychological effects. And
              Paul lets us know that healers became associated with this movement.
              But all of this is a quite different historical claim than we are dealt
              with the kind of "could have" argument presented here. Suggesting a
              supposition is one thing, making a historical claim requires evidence.
              What we get from the ancient world, obviously, are not medical records.
              What we get... and they are of a kind... (these are consistent stories
              in that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Son of the Father who has
              inaugurated the eschatological age of the Kingdom). With that comes
              nature and healing (and actually, of course, healing is "natural"/ has
              to do with nature!) wonders that signify this happening. Before this in
              Israel's scriptures WE ARE TOLD that this is part of what God does and
              therefore the Evangelists as they did for birth, baptism, temptation,
              teachings, passion, death, resurrection and glorification... went to the
              Scriptures to elucidate this proclamation. And to say the least this
              has remained an amazing form of religious communication. The consistent
              testimony across the texts... just to borrow Paul's affirmation in II
              Cor. 5... is that in Jesus a community of reconciliation was founded.
              Now I like to employ "healing metaphors" for the effect of this! And
              when I look at Jesus' parables what I find is a story of a Samaritan who
              tends and makes for the possibility of recovery. So if we want to talk
              about the real healing that Jesus helped effect, that is where I suggest
              we start!

              Gordon Raynal
              Inman, SC



              Antonio Jerez wrote:
              >
              > Nichael Cramer wrote:
              >
              > > In light of this let me rephrase my question:
              > >
              > > For what other ancient text would we consider it acceptable
              > > historical methodology to begin by assuming that a report of
              > > a supernatural event were anything except a "literary invention"?
              >
              > Though I have often had arguments in the past with Bob Schacht about the
              > historical veracity of many parts of the NT, I feel sympathy for his positition
              > on this particular matter. I agree that Gordon Raynal's claim that ALL healing
              > and miracle stories are pure metaphorical midrash without any grounding in
              > any historical happening is simplistic in the extreme. Gordon is on the right track
              > when it comes to the nature miracles - like Jesus walking on water and stilling the
              > storm - but out on a limb when talking about the exorcism stories.
              > Nichael Cramer asks a rather strange question. I am not a Christian, do not believe
              > in the supernatural and study the the gospels as a secular historian. A historian does
              > not rule out beforehand a report from an ancient text that that contains supernatural
              > elements as a total literary invention. Nichael is also being extremely simplistic. The fact
              > that a healing story like Mark 1:21-28 mentions a man being possessed by demons does
              > not automatically mean that the historical Jesus could not have had a real encounter with
              > a man which he and his firstcentury BELIEVED was demonpossessed Just because we
              > moderns don't give a certain event the same interpretation that the ancients did does not
              > mean that the event doesn't have anything historical over it at all.
              > That said I must admit that the miracle stories in the gospels are often treated with a
              > seriousness that is often laughable by the kind of pseudohistorians that are all too common
              > in the exegetical guild. Why even bother to try to argue for anything historical behind a story
              > like Jesus walking on water or the raising of Lazarus? Still we find scholar after scholar in
              > commentary after commentary going to ridiculous lengths to argue that there may be something
              > behind the event after all. The last time I had this unpleasant experience was when reading Craig
              > Keener's recent commentary on Matthew. Here he digs up dozens of litterary parallels from ancient
              > litterature about people walking miraculously on water and the man still doesn't want to admit that
              > we are dealing with pure metaphorical "midrash". That said, though I was often angered by the
              > dumbness of many of Keeners arguments, I must recommend his commentary because it is a goldmine
              > for anybody interested in finding out about the literary parallels in pagan and jewish litterature to the
              > gospel stories.
              >
              > Best wishes
              >
              > Antonio Jerez
              > Göteborg, Sweden
              >
              >
              > The XTalk Home Page is http://www.xtalk.org
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            • Jack Kilmon
              ... From: Gordon Raynal To: Sent: Tuesday, February 06, 2001 7:11 AM Subject: Re: [XTalk] Historical Healing
              Message 6 of 20 , Feb 6, 2001
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                ----- Original Message -----
                From: "Gordon Raynal" <scudi@...>
                To: <crosstalk2@yahoogroups.com>
                Sent: Tuesday, February 06, 2001 7:11 AM
                Subject: Re: [XTalk] Historical Healing Stories


                > Beyond this, I find fascinating the move to define the illnesses cited
                > in post Freudian "psycho-somatic terms," then proceed to delve into how
                > Jesus was an effective healer of these sorts of illnesses.

                In a society where illness was believed to be the result of sin, I can see
                how
                "psycho-somatic/guilt" maladies would proliferate in a society so entranched
                in religious fervor, perhaps even outnumber illnesses of pathological
                origin.
                Forgive the sin, cure the disease.


                Jack
                --
                ______________________________________________

                taybutheh d'maran yeshua masheecha am kulkon

                Jack Kilmon
                Austin, Texas
                jkilmon@...

                http://www.historian.net

                sharing a meal for free.
                http://www.thehungersite.com/
              • Antonio Jerez
                ... Gordon, I would not agree with you that some of the healing and excorcism stories do not come up to us as touched up . In a case like Mark 2:1-12 we very
                Message 7 of 20 , Feb 6, 2001
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                  Gordon Raynal wrote:

                  > Antonio,

                  > The important word in this post is "could." Of course the healing
                  > wonder stories "could" suggest that Jesus was a healer. And as I noted
                  > yesterday I'm not an unhappy person if this is true. But the stories of
                  > healings and exorcisms do not come to us as "touched up" (to use
                  > photographic technique language) stories. They come as wonder stories
                  > whose purpose is theological. In the case of this pericope the demon(s)
                  > know who Jesus really is... the crowds get that he teaches with an
                  > authority unlike those of religious establishment... the demon knows
                  > that truth and from whence the authority comes! Now behind this "could"
                  > be an exorcism that the story telling tradition changed to proclaim
                  > theology, but exactly how by historical methodology can you make that
                  > judgment?

                  Gordon,
                  I would not agree with you that some of the healing and excorcism stories
                  do not come up to us as "touched up". In a case like Mark 2:1-12 we very
                  probably have a historical reminicence from Jesus "touched up" theologically.
                  I think we can say that the historical core (basically without any retouching) is
                  found from verse 2:1-4. But I do agree with you that it is often almost impossible
                  to disentangle history from fiction in many of the NT stories. Unfortunately there
                  is no good metodology.

                  > What we get from the ancient world, obviously, are not medical records.
                  > What we get... and they are of a kind... (these are consistent stories
                  > in that the Jesus of the Gospels is the Son of the Father who has
                  > inaugurated the eschatological age of the Kingdom). With that comes
                  > nature and healing (and actually, of course, healing is "natural"/ has
                  > to do with nature!) wonders that signify this happening. Before this in
                  > Israel's scriptures WE ARE TOLD that this is part of what God does and
                  > therefore the Evangelists as they did for birth, baptism, temptation,
                  > teachings, passion, death, resurrection and glorification... went to the
                  >Scriptures to elucidate this proclamation.

                  But you forget that there is little indication that firstcentury Jews expected
                  the Messiah to be an exorcist and a healer. I think you are putting the cart
                  before the horse. As I read the evidence Jesus made himelf quite a reputation
                  as a healer and an exorcist during his lifetime. After his death his followers
                  searched the scriptures to find passages that could show that the Messiah
                  was unexpectedly both to be a miracle worker and a dying and resurrected one.
                  We also have indications in the gospels (and Josephus?)that both foe and friend acknowledged
                  that Jesus was an exorcist. A pericope like Matthew 12:22-37 shows how the
                  early Christians tried to counter the accusations that Jesus healing powers came
                  from Satan.

                  Best wishes

                  Antonio Jerez
                  Göteborg, Sweden
                • RSBrenchley@aol.com
                  ... I wish you d do it online, this is really interesting! Regards, Robert Brenchley RSBrenchley@aol.com
                  Message 8 of 20 , Feb 6, 2001
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                    Gordon Raynal writes:

                    > So, that is a bit more. If you'd like to go over some stories in
                    > detail, perhaps we can do that off-line.

                    I wish you'd do it online, this is really interesting!

                    Regards,

                    Robert Brenchley

                    RSBrenchley@...
                  • Ken Olson
                    ... early Christians tried to counter the accusations that Jesus healing powers came from Satan.
                    Message 9 of 20 , Feb 7, 2001
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                      At 1:53 PM on 2/6/01 Antonio Jerez wrote:

                      >>A pericope like Matthew 12:22-37 shows how the
                      early Christians tried to counter the accusations that Jesus healing
                      powers came
                      from Satan.<<

                      Is that necessarily the social context of the composition of this
                      pericope? Frequently in Mark, Jesus is a sort of role model (as
                      opposed to Peter and the other disciples) for proper Christian
                      behavior in times of trouble and persecution. The pericope in Mk.
                      3.22-30 (= Mt. 12.22-37, Lk. 11.17-23, 12.10) may be an example of
                      such. Christians who claimed to have an indwelling holy spirit, which
                      made them "dead to sin" and granted them "gifts of the spirit"
                      including prophecy, glossolalia, healing, and "discerning of spirits"
                      (1 Cor. 12) may frequently have faced accusations of demonic
                      possesion. The possibility that this situation has been retrojected
                      into the lifetime of Jesus at least deserves consideration. This
                      story may be due to Christians' need to counter accusations made
                      against themselves rather than to historical memory of such
                      accusations made against Jesus.

                      Ken

                      Kenneth A. Olson
                      Graduate Teaching Assistant
                      Department of History
                      2115 Francis Scott Key Hall
                      University of Maryland
                      College Park, MD 20742
                      kaolson@...

                      I am too much of a skeptic to deny the possibility of anything - T.H.
                      Huxley
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