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Re: [XTalk] What questions have disappeared?

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  • Bob Schacht
    ... I think part of the answer to your question relates to trends in theological interest. That helps create interest in certain kinds of questions, and
    Message 1 of 4 , Mar 11, 2001
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      At 05:16 AM 2/21/01 -0500, Brian Tucker wrote:

      >Brian wrote:
      > > >1. What guestions have disappeared in historical Jesus and early
      > > >chrisitan origin studies?
      >Bob responded:
      > > Brian,
      > > Can you give us a conjectural example so we can see what you're getting
      >Maybe the answer is 'none'?
      >Questions about HJ never really disappear. Some are key for a while? Was
      >he apocalyptic? Was he political? Was he who the communities claimed he
      >was? But, then some questions set on the wayside for a while.

      I think part of the answer to your question relates to trends in
      theological interest. That helps create interest in certain kinds of
      questions, and theological interests tend to follow cycles (spirals?).
      Take, for example, current fashions of thinking about the resurrection. Is
      it history, or is it metaphor, parable, or fiction? Many branches of
      critical scholarship have simply dismissed the historicity of the
      resurrection, so that influences the kinds of questions they consider worth
      asking about the resurrection tradition(s).

      Another thing that drives the questions is speculations about historical
      significance. For example, was what Jesus *said* more important than what
      he *did*? That helps write the agenda. So, for example, the Jesus Seminar
      decided to tackle the issue of the sayings before turning their attention
      to his deeds.

      >What type of history are we attempting to arrive at in HJ studies? What
      >makes history history?
      >Maybe the issue is: are the certain questions about HJ that have be
      >jettisoned? Are the questions that don't need to be asked anymore?

      There have been cycles of interest in exactly when he was born, but most
      people have lost interest in that, except on millenial occasions.

      There are also questions that are so mundane that only certain people are
      interested in them. What did he eat? Where did he sleep? How was his
      ministry funded?

      >Christopher Phillips wrote:
      > >>Instead, we seem to take for granted that we know what history is, that
      > we know what thinking is, that we know what learning is, when in fact if
      > we delved a little more into these questions, we may well find that none
      > of us hold the same views on what these rich concepts mean and how they
      > function.
      >Which leads me to this perspective: What *has* all but disappeared, I
      >think, is a way of answering questions, regardless of which one is being
      >posed, regardless of how seemingly profound or off-beat or mundane it is.
      >I'm speaking of the kind of rigorous, exhaustive, methodical yet highly
      >imaginative scrutiny of a Socrates or a Plato that challenged all
      >assumptions embedded in a question, and that revealed breathtakingly new
      >vistas and hidden likenesses between seemingly disparate entities.<<

      Is this a pomo challenge? Basically, what questions we ask is more
      dependent on what interests us than on what the object of study is. If that
      is what Phillips is arguing, I can't say that I disagree.

      >Should we not take anything for granted when a question is posed and
      >subject our questions to rigorous scrutiny and continual examination and
      >at least consider cogent objections and alternative ways of seeing HJ and ECO?

      Well, I have two answers for the price of one :-)
      The first is that we cannot help but stand on the shoulders of those who
      have already invented the wheel. Crossan argues this in The Birth of
      Christianity, and pummels Wright for wanting to try another way. Most of
      the time, re-inventing the wheel is wasted effort.

      My second answer is that every now and then it is healthy to step back from
      engaging in normative research and ask ourselves how well the assumptions
      we have been using are holding up. One of the things I value in Crossan's
      work is how self-conscious he is about his methodology. He is more aware of
      the assumptions on which his work is based than most critical scholars are,
      and he spends more time in critical reflection on those assumptions than most.

      >Last night in class we had this discussion in the context of conservatives
      >writing to conservatives in conservative journals and non-conservatives
      >writing to non-conservatives in non-conservative journals and the
      >epistemological divide that seems to exist between the two.

      You mean like Republicans and Democrats in Congress? It is not just an
      epistemological divide, it is also a divide over values. I don't know what
      kinds of conservatives you are thinking about -- Biblical? Political? But I
      think we have the same split in critical scholarship. When I have
      complained in the past over the lack of balance in the Jesus Seminar's
      membership, I usually receive protests from a member, pointing out 1-2
      members, out of 40 or so, who are right of center as evidence that the jury
      is not packed, and wringing their hands about the efforts they say they
      have made to invite conservatives to join, and mourning the loss of
      conservatives who attended for a while before quitting. I think the matter
      is relatively simple: conservatives know that the deck is stacked against
      them in the Jesus Seminar, so most of them either don't stay or don't join.
      (I am indulging in a little rhetorical exaggeration here, as someone will
      no doubt point out, but I think the basic point is valid.) To be fair, the
      Jesus Seminar does at least find *some* sayings and *some* deeds to be
      authentic, which is more than some skeptics are willing to grant.

      >Bottomline: are there any questions that have been so firmly answered that
      >they are not asked anymore they have become a part of our assumptions. We
      >don't even bother with them in discussions. What I find as I traverse
      >between realms of scholarship is that certain questions disappear in one
      >circle but are alive in another circle.

      That's right. Take miracles, for example. 'nuff said (i.e., we've said
      enough about that recently, and I'm not trying to revive that debate.)

      >Hope this helps
      >Brian Tucker

      Did I understand the question? :-)

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

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