Re: [XTalk] Re: Honorable debate in agonistic cultures
Thanks for the Munslow reference. I will add it to my endless list of BOOKS TO BE READ SOON!
Meanwhile can you name any major working historians who are deconstructionists?
If you can name some, do you think they do better history than those major ones who are not?
To me the deconstructionists are like the Critics in literature for whom masterpieces are so much raw material for them to do exercises on; and none of whom has produced a major poem or novel.
There are rumors that in literature this fad is fading. If so it will take Bible studies 10 or 15 years to notice the fade, just as it took them years to discover the movement.
Perhaps the situation in Bible studies 10/15 years ago was like that in western classical music in the early 20th century: almost everything worth doing had already been done! So in bible studies there was a big rush towards a) the Dead Sea Scrolls, b) Nag Hammadi, c) Deconstruction etc.
----- Original Message -----
From: David C. Hindley
Sent: Wednesday, May 30, 2001 3:28 PM
Subject: RE: [XTalk] Re: Honorable debate in agonistic cultures
Brian McCarthy said:
>>Which is why deconstructionists dont have anything of interest to
say about the past, while good historians strive to constantly refine
and enrich their perceptions of it.
Recently for example, RETHINKING THE HOLOCAUST, by Yehuda Bauer. Who
has no illusions about perfect representation of past realities, but
knows we can obtain real knowledge and can constantly progress in
knowledge as historians all aiming at the impossible ideal of perfect
objectivity, and each with his/her more or less clearly recognized
perspective, rub off each other.
Mere deconstruction spirals slowly into sterile futility and
Like I said, "This question of the biases of the historian is a hot
button for some." <g>
"Deconstructionist historians," according to Alun Munslow (another of
my favorite non-biblical historians, _Deconstructing History_,
Routledge, 1997), "do not automatically doubt the truth of individual
referential statements, nor do they claim that it is impossible to
demonstrate that certain events did or did not happen, that people
were not short or tall, that decisions were or were not made, or that
millions of Jews in the early part of the twentieth century were
murdered by the German Nazi regime."
So, they are not really trying to render worthless the task of
historians by rejecting events that cannot be represented perfectly. I
do not know where you got your understanding of their methods.
Rather, Munslow continues, "the deconstructive emphasis is upon the
procedure for creating historical knowledge when we deal with the
evidence. We are aware that we make simple verifiable statements,
which we compose in a narrative so that they become meaningful (not
necessarily the same as truthful)." (page 149)
There is nothing in this that rejects "real knowledge" or denies that
historians "can constantly progress in knowledge."
I would recommend Munslow's above book for a thorough review of modern
historical approaches and their philosophical assumptions. He is
non-judgmental or preachy, and might dispel some of your reservations.
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
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[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
Do you think these folks were armed?
No. With the possible exception of the Samaritan
Prophet, the popular prophets didn't lead armed
revolts. "Violence" was left as the prerogative of God
alone, when He soon acted. Jesus followed suit here,
never condoning human violence, elsewhere promising
divine retribution (as in Mt. 11:20-24/Lk. 10:13-16).
So, would you say that it is possible that the masses
went out just to see IF a miracle would be performed,
rather than to participate? Would they necessarily
had any clue as to the chance of being
slaughtered as they were?
I think the masses went out because they believed,
fervently, that God would act; that the Kingdom was
imminent. I see no reason to question the enthusiastic
level of their participation in the march around
How many do you suppose there actually were?
A lot -- these are called "popular" prophets for good
Josephus is surely exaggerating with the numbers
though, isn't he?
Probably. I imagine hundreds, rather than thousands,
of followers for the Egyptian prophet.
What do you think was their reason for being
there? Just to innocently see if the Egyptian's
claim would come to pass or to
actually fight their way into Jerusalem?
I believe they circled Jerusalem with the expectation
that (at the prophet's command) the walls of the city
would come tumbling down, as Joshua's legendary shout
had done to the walls of Jericho in ages past. This
would have been the first apoacalyptic prelude to the
Kingdom of God. I don't know how "innocent" this is,
but I sense your sarcasm. However preposterous and
naive such expectations may seem to us, they were no
more so than, say, those of the followers of Theudas,
who was supposed to have parted the waters of the
Jordan before getting decapitated by Cuspius Fadus.
Well, I'm wondering how we know any of these people
were really doing anything more than going out to
possibly observe a miracle...I'm reacting to the
following article written by an historian who seems to
paint first century peoples with too broad of a brush
of gullibility, in an attempt to give us the
background against which we should view claims about
If you have the time, I'd appreciate any
feedback/guidance on the overall quality of/points
raised in that article.
I would say the author of this article is daft,
deluded, and devoid of sense. His disdain for the
people of antiquity is galling. He writes:
"The age of Jesus was not an age of critical
reflection and remarkable religious acumen. It was an
era filled with con artists, gullible believers,
martyrs without a cause, and reputed miracles of every
variety. In light of this picture, the tales of the
gospels do not seem remarkable at all. Even if they
were false in every detail, there is no evidence that
they would have been disbelieved or rejected as absurd
by a people largely lacking in education or critical
thinking skills. They had no newspapers, telephones,
photographs, or public documents to consult to check a
story...The shouts of the credulous rabble overpowered
their voice and seized the world from them, boldly
leading them all into the darkness of a thousand years
First of all, we cannot dismiss the movements of
Theudas, the Egyptian Prophet, John the Baptist, or
Jesus of Nazareth with the above sort of indictment.
Much in these prophetic movements can be commended,
just as much can be criticized. But we fail miserably
in the historical task when we judge the past by
so-called "enlightened" standards. Secondly, far from
lacking "religious acumen", the age of Jesus -- that
is, 2nd-Temple Judaism -- was marked by vibrancy,
diversity, and (often enough) fierce intelligence.
Obviously the author and I have very different views
of the people of antiquity.
So I can appreciate you reacting against this fellow.
But that the Egyptian prophet and his followers were
incited to riot (mad as they were under the Romans and
Judean elite), and that they fervently believed Yahweh
would soon act dramatically in history (in accordance
with ways He had in the past), does not necessarily
make the leader a "con artist" nor his followers
"gullible". Does it?
Loren Rosson III
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