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various methodologies

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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 1 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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