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Re: [XTalk] Scientific methodology

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  • Jan Sammer
    From: Fabrizio Palestini ... the ... dedicate ... As you wield Occam s razor, be careful where you slice. In what way is the
    Message 1 of 5 , Aug 30, 2001
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      From: "Fabrizio Palestini" <fabrizio.palestini@...>
      >
      > In fact, the priority of Marcion's version doesn't lead automatically to
      the
      > marcionite origin of the Pauline Epistles, we have other possibilities.
      > But exactly at this point the SCIENTIFIC methodology must lead us.
      > In scientific fields, facing a more or less complex phenomenon, the
      > researchers ALWAYS test the simpler, linear, easier hypothesis, to
      dedicate
      > to the others in a second time (if the first wasn't properly satisfying
      > etc.).

      As you wield Occam's razor, be careful where you slice. In what way is the
      hypothesis that the Pauline correspondence was falsified by Marcion a
      century after its purported origin simpler than the hypothesis that the
      correspondence (or the major part of it) is authentic, through perhaps
      subjected to interpolations?
      >
      > But seeing your argument, I can but ask myself what is the motive why
      you'd
      > discard the hypothesis of marcionite authorship (a simple and logic
      theory,
      > seeing the anteriority of the marcionite version over the orthodox one),
      in
      > favour of a pauline authorship, a first marcionite redaction, and a second
      > orthodox redaction (!) (a more complex theory, and even more important a
      > theory without scarce predictive capacity!!!!!

      I do not know of any prima facie evidence for Marcionite authorship. The
      defense of this hypothesis requires proving the pre-Marcionite use of this
      correspondence (e.g., by Ignatius) as a further case of falsification. Only
      thus can you establish Marcion's priority in the use of this correspondence.
      Detering has tried to show that our text of Galatians is the result of what
      he calls a "catholic" redaction, the intent of which was to make Paul more
      acceptable to mainstream Christianity. The author of the original letters as
      reconstructed by Detering claims to have received a separate revelation from
      the risen Christ, to have authority based on that revelation independent of
      the established line of authority represented by the family of Jesus and the
      apostles; on the basis of this revelation and authority the author claims
      that the new dispensation has given humanity freedom from the strictures of
      the Law of Moses. I found much of the grammatical analysis cogent, but I do
      not agree with Detering's conclusion and I do not find it simpler. Detering
      finds interpolations in the text of Paul's letters and concludes that the
      reconstructed original text is not by Paul, because it resembles the ideas
      of a second-century heretic. I cannot see how that follows. Detering's
      analysis does present us with a somewhat more radical Paul than we are used
      to seeing, one more at odds with the Jerusalem establishment than we used to
      think, but essentially still recognizably the same individual.

      > How can we reconstruct the
      > primitive pauline text? Who was Paul? Etc... If the situation was the
      > opposite, I could understand a tendency towards a more predictive theory,
      in
      > fact is a perfectly understandable human behaviour to prefer what can
      offer
      > us more interesting result!).

      > The scientific approach forces us to investigate ALL TOGETHER the
      marcionite
      > authorship, in each its aspect, to test its predictive possibilities, its
      > internal coherence etc., and only AFTER that to test ALL TOGETHER the
      other
      > hypothesis.
      >
      What we should do is to weigh the internal evidence of Paul's authorship
      against the new hypothesis for Marcion's authorship.

      >The fact is that the
      > conservative tendency (a perfectly understandable human weakness) becomes
      in
      > NT studies a not casual factor of deviation from the most plausible
      > explanation.

      It seems to me that it is a question of the burden of proof that is
      incumbent on anyone who comes up with a radically new thesis. I have
      recently read a very erudite book trying to prove that the Almagest of
      Ptolemy was written shortly before the time of its discovery, in the
      eleventh century A.D., I believe. It is a hypothesis worth investigating,
      but it cannot be given preference just because it's allegedly "simpler".

      >
      > A scientist (in other fields) would say: ok, the marcionite theory is
      good,
      > and we'll test it to its farthest consequences; but we have other theory
      to
      > investigate then, so let set to work!
      >
      > Instead, you say: why this imply that Marcion is the author? There are
      other
      > explanations!

      > Yes, there are! But you show a tendency to defend the orthodox picture!
      You
      > accept only with difficulty a perfectly reasonable theory, and this
      > prejudiced approach will cause surely a defect in your results.

      I am yet to see convincing evidence that Marcion authored the Pauline
      Corpus. The evidence that Paul authored much of the Pauline corpus is right
      there in the letters that reflect the conditions and conflicts of the first
      century. Postulating a clever falsifier a century later, capable of
      plausibly recapturing those conditions and conflicts does not make for a
      simpler theory in my opinion.

      Regards

      Jan
    • Rikki E. Watts
      Dear Steve and Fabrizion, Excuse the cheeky observation, :), but Collingwood argued that the problem with 19th cent history was precisely that it tried to be
      Message 2 of 5 , Aug 30, 2001
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        Dear Steve and Fabrizion,

        Excuse the cheeky observation, :), but Collingwood argued that the problem
        with 19th cent history was precisely that it tried to be ³scientific²
        whereas he would argue that doing history is not the same thing as doing
        science. As to simplicity: did not none other than the great sleuth Holmes
        (esteemed among true NT scholars) once say ³rule out all the impossible
        alternatives and the remaining option, no matter how improbable, is the
        correct one²? (or something like that?)

        Have fun

        Rikk





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      • Bob Schacht
        ... Part of the reason for this, as we have discussed on XTalk before, is that most members of this list do not believe that the scientific method works with
        Message 3 of 5 , Aug 30, 2001
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          At 07:10 PM 8/30/01 +0200, Fabrizio wrote:
          >Dear XTalk's members,
          >
          >...What I'll try to offer is a careful SCIENTIFIC methodology (to be
          >clear, what distinguish SCIENCE from PSEUDOSCIENCE is absolutely not the
          >results, which can be casually the same, but the approach, the
          >methodology) which in my view is still partially lacking in NT researches.

          Part of the reason for this, as we have discussed on XTalk before, is that
          most members of this list do not believe that the scientific method works
          with our data. I happen to agree with your statement above, but I don't
          have much support on this list for a "scientific' approach. However, I am
          not impressed by your knowledge of scientific methodology, because you also
          wrote:


          >...But exactly at this point the SCIENTIFIC methodology must lead us.
          >In scientific fields, facing a more or less complex phenomenon, the
          >researchers ALWAYS test the simpler, linear, easier hypothesis, to
          >dedicate to the others in a second time (if the first wasn't properly
          >satisfying etc.).

          As Jan Sammer pointed out, you are referring here to Occam's Razor, which
          is a 14th century *pre-scientific* principle of philosophy. Furthermore,
          you don't even seem to be very familiar with Occam's Razor, which states
          that "multiplicity ought not be posited without necessity." Simpler
          hypotheses are only to be preferred *if everything else is equal* (ceteris
          paribus, if I remember correctly). Of course, everything is often not equal.

          >...The scientific approach forces us to investigate ALL TOGETHER the
          >marcionite authorship, in each its aspect, to test its predictive
          >possibilities, its internal coherence etc., and only AFTER that to test
          >ALL TOGETHER the other hypothesis....

          As Jan pointed out, your priorities are all wrong. It is in fact the
          Marcionite authorship hypothesis that is more complex, by far, because it
          requires a host of other forgeries in order to be sustained.

          I would also like to address other recent expressions of interest in
          methodology.
          A number of comments fall into the category of casting brickbats from the
          sidelines.
          OK, criticize the Principle of Multiple Attestation or the Principle of
          Coherence-- But I challenge those who would do so to offer what methods
          they would use instead to decide what deeds or sayings of Jesus are
          historical, and which aren't?

          There's nothing wrong with the Principle of Multiple Attestation, IMHO. The
          problem is deciding what qualifies as multiple? For example, does Triple
          tradition material count as multiple attestation or not? Of course, the
          principle demands multiple *independent* attestation, so if one source can
          be shown to be dependent on another source, then the dependent source can't
          be counted as multiple. The fact that the relationship among documents is
          complex does not imply a fault with the Principle of Multiple Attestation;
          it merely tells us that it is not always easy to apply the principle.

          Of course, criticism of the "Criteria" is not new. Those of you who are
          interested in this issue (which really should be everyone here) really
          ought to read the methodology chapters in Crossan's The Birth of
          Christianity. Whether you agree with him or not, Crossan's discussion of
          methodological issues is more sophisticated than most others in the field.
          After supporting the use of the "Criteria" in the Jesus Seminar back at the
          time the JSem was working on The Five Gospels, Crossan has backed off using
          the "Criteria", mostly because of the way that they have been used.
          Whether that makes the use of those Criteria obsolete is arguable, *but at
          least you ought to know his arguments.*

          Of course, Tom Wright has gotten fed up not only with those Criteria, but
          also with most of the classical tools of critical scholarship, so he has
          gone off in a whole different direction. I do not understand his method
          well enough yet to criticize it. I *do* understand Crossan's method well
          enough to criticize it, but in doing so I also recognize that he has
          thought more deeply about those issues than most historical Jesus scholars,
          so I respect his methodology in general, even when I disagree with it, and
          I become impatient with people who say they're interested in methodology
          but don't bother to read Crossan. Sorry, I guess I'm becoming an old
          curmudgeon. :-)

          Bob


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