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Re: [XTalk] Historical Healing Stories

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  • 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 1 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 2 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 3 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 4 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 5 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 6 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 7 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 8 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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