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Re: Various Methodologies

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  • Eric Eve
    ... which ... ERIC EVE Yes, it was me, and thank you for reiterating my comments (with complete accuracy). I m also not suggesting that multiple attestation
    Message 1 of 10 , Aug 31, 2001
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      Bill Arnal wrote:

      >On the contrary. How would you respond to Eric Eve's (I think it was)
      >comments about the two key weakness of this principle? I.e.: 1) it reflects
      >accidents of survival (which can mean either that authentic materials may
      >not be multiply-attested, AND that inauthentic materials may); 2) it only
      >surely indicates that the material in question predates the sources in
      which
      >it appears, and NOT that it goes back to HJ. These strike me as pretty
      >serious challenges. They do not, of course, mean that multiple attestation
      >should be tossed out, but they MUST, I think, diminish our confidence that
      >it can actually lead us to the HJ.


      ERIC EVE
      Yes, it was me, and thank you for reiterating my comments (with complete
      accuracy). I'm also not suggesting that multiple attestation should be
      thrown out altogether, particularly when it can be used in conjunction with
      other criteria, or when (for example), it is not simply a question of
      attestation in multiple documents but in multiple layers or types of
      tradition (e.g. J.P. Meier's argument that Jesus' healings and exorcisms are
      referred to both in miracles stories and in sayings material). Again, the
      ability to date some items earlier than the sources in which they occur
      (because those sources independently attest them) may be far from worthless.
      That said, my points stand.

      BILL ARNAL
      >Well, my own idiosyncratic take on this is that the HJ is mostly
      >unrecoverable. Some negative statements can be made, but few positive ones.

      ERIC EVE
      I can quite see why someone would take this position, though I'm not sure I
      share it. It partly depends what we mean by the 'historical Jesus', of
      course. If it means 'Jesus as he actually was' then there must be a great
      deal that is unrecoverable. If it means 'Jesus as he can be reconstructed by
      the methods of modern historical-critical research' then the problem would
      seem to be, not that this HJ is irrecoverable, but that we can recover too
      many of him! I sometimes wonder (i.e. I've been thinking without coming to a
      definitive conclusion) that what HJ research achieves is not so much the
      recovery of a 'real Jesus as he actually was' as the reconstruction of Jesus
      as he might have been; in place of Gospels which present Jesus in categories
      meaningful to a first-century audience we present scholarly reconstructions
      in categories (hopefully) meaningful to a twenty-first century authorship,
      which, given our cultural setting, most naturally takes the form of
      historical reconstruction (I hope this doesn't sound too horribly
      relativist)). But I don't at all think that this makes HJ research
      valueless. (And even if we end up with a range of competing HJs, some will
      probably be more plausible than others, and maybe some options will be ruled
      altogether).

      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 our data. I happen to agree with your statement above, but I don't
      >have much support on this list for a "scientific' approach.

      ERIC EVE
      Hm. I wonder what exactly you mean by 'scientific method' here (sorry, I
      think the previous discussion on XTalk to which you refer must have been
      before I joined). To me, the paradigm of 'scientific method' is what
      physicists do, and I don't think that history is very much like physics.
      Maybe we can learn _something_ from the analogies with natural science, but,
      as I understand it, progress in physics is achieved through increasing
      levels of generalization and abstraction (e.g. Superstring theory may be
      able to encompass both Quantum Mechanics and General Relativity and account
      for the Standard Model of elementary particles and fundamental forces with
      great economy and symmetry, but will do so using concepts of space and time
      vastly removed from those of our everyday concepts, such as superstrings
      oscillating in a ten-dimensional space-time manifold, and which will be
      encapsulated in a highly abstract mathematical formulation). I can't believe
      that the goal of any historical research can look at all like this, so I
      think one needs to reflect on the *differences* between physics and history
      before invoking 'scientific method'. But perhaps you meant something rather
      different, e.g. 'scientific' more in the sense of the German
      'wissenschaftlich'. But even then it might be interesting to reflect on the
      different ways in which methods and observations are theory-laden in
      different disciplines. In natural science this isn't too much of a problem
      since the theories in question are well tested, highly coherent, and almost
      universally agreed by the relevant experts (e.g. to set up an experiment to
      measure the mass of a quark must presuppose a considerable amount of
      scientific theory, but, as I understand it, the theory presupposed is
      something all experimental and theoretical physicists would agree on). How
      far can this be said for any 'theory' in HJ research?

      But if I'm simply setting up a straw man and questioning something you
      weren't asserting, please forgive me! As I said, it all depends what you
      mean by 'scientific'. My problem with 'scientific' criteria such a multiple
      attestation is not so much that I regard them as wholly worthless, but that
      (a) their presuppositions _may_ sometimes be question-begging and (b) they
      do not, in fact, have the epistemic status of scientific procedures in a
      discipline like physics, which the appellation 'scientific' _could_
      misleadingly suggest.

      Finally, please bear in mind that I am not so much trying to make a
      sceptical case as airing doubts in what I hope is a reasonably sympathetic
      forum!

      Regards,

      Eric
      ---------------------------
      Eric Eve
      Harris Manchester College, Oxford
      email: mailto:eric.eve@...
      Home page: http://users.ox.ac.uk/~manc0049
    • David C. Hindley
      ... method here (sorry, I think the previous discussion on XTalk to which you refer must have been before I joined). To me, the paradigm of scientific
      Message 2 of 10 , Aug 31, 2001
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        Eric Eve said:

        >>I wonder what exactly you [i.e., Bob Schacht] mean by 'scientific
        method' here (sorry, I think the previous discussion on XTalk to which
        you refer must have been before I joined). To me, the paradigm of
        'scientific method' is what physicists do, and I don't think that
        history is very much like physics.<<

        I believe Bob was referring to a discussion about Karl Popper's theory
        that hypotheses need to be falsifiable. In other words, a good
        hypothesis is one that can be confirmed (as there is no good way to
        measure the significance of those confirmations with regard to
        establishing the hypothesis as true), but in their resistance to being
        falsified. Bob asked, rhetorically, why this could not be done with
        historical hypotheses. Some of us protested that when it comes to
        physics, the phenomenon can usually be repeated under controlled
        conditions to test the hypothesis. With historical data we do not have
        this option.

        At first I thought Fabrizio was thinking of was some kind of
        "empirical" method, but now I tend to agree he was thinking of the
        "experimental" method, calling it the scientific method, although
        Science sometimes has to rely strictly on "static" data like we do
        with history. Astronomy might be an example. There is no way to
        control the variables, so you determine what processes should be
        detectable if something, say a supernova, occurs, and you try to put
        yourself in a position to capture the data that can confirm or falsify
        the hypothesis the next time a supernova is observed by chance). So, I
        guess, historical data is subject to some degree of "scientific"
        method.

        Respectfully,

        Dave Hindley
        Cleveland, Ohio, USA
      • Steve Black
        ... thrown out altogether... Just to throw in my two bits. The flip side of the value of multiple attestation would be to consider single attestation as also
        Message 3 of 10 , Aug 31, 2001
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          >Bill Arnal wrote:
          >
          >>On the contrary. How would you respond to Eric Eve's (I think it was)
          >>comments about the two key weakness of this principle? I.e.: 1) it reflects
          >>accidents of survival (which can mean either that authentic materials may
          >>not be multiply-attested, AND that inauthentic materials may); 2) it only
          >>surely indicates that the material in question predates the sources in
          >which
          >>it appears, and NOT that it goes back to HJ. These strike me as pretty
          >>serious challenges. They do not, of course, mean that multiple attestation
          >>should be tossed out, but they MUST, I think, diminish our confidence that
          >>it can actually lead us to the HJ.
          >
          >
          >ERIC EVE
          >Yes, it was me, and thank you for reiterating my comments (with complete
          >accuracy). I'm also not suggesting that multiple attestation should be
          thrown out altogether...

          Just to throw in my two bits. The flip side of the value of multiple
          attestation would be to consider "single" attestation as also not
          necessarily being devoid of historical value. Why one story was
          remembered and retold (and perhaps spread abroad) and another
          received only limited attention is due to what caught the interests
          of those ancient communities and the evangelists involved on writing
          the documents we now possess. What interested them was NOT that
          something actually happened , but rather that something "spoke to
          them" (so to speak) - something addressed an issue that they felt
          needed addressing. Historicity would play an insignificant role in
          this. A saying/story without any historical foundation might become
          very popular (=multiple attestation ) for this reason, and another
          story with a real historic referent might be less popular (="single"
          attestation) because although "historic", it just "didn't speak to
          people". Much was certainly lost altogether because of a "lack of
          interest".

          --

          Steve Black
          Vancouver, BC

          Always the beautiful answer who asks a more beautiful question
          ee cummings
        • Eric Eve
          ... Eric Eve: Thanks for the clarification, but there are still some differences between your astronomical example and the business of testing a historical
          Message 4 of 10 , Sep 1, 2001
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            David Hindley wrote:

            > There is no way to
            > control the variables, so you determine what processes should be
            > detectable if something, say a supernova, occurs, and you try to put
            > yourself in a position to capture the data that can confirm or falsify
            > the hypothesis the next time a supernova is observed by chance). So, I
            > guess, historical data is subject to some degree of "scientific" method.

            Eric Eve:
            Thanks for the clarification, but there are still some differences between
            your astronomical example and the business of testing a historical theory,
            are there not? In the first place, a theory about supernovae in general
            should be applicable to any supernova, so although one might indeed have to
            wait for a supernova to appear, any old supernova would do and the
            measurements should in principle be repeatable on any supernovae (or should
            it be supernovas?) that came along thereafter. A historical theory on the
            other hand is a reconstruction of a sequence of events and the causal
            relations between them that occurred once only in one particular time and
            place. In the second, if the theory about supernovas predicted (say) that a
            certain proportion of the elements hydrogen, helium and lithium should be
            observed in the supernova at a particular stage in its evolution, there
            would be little or no scope for disagreement among astronomers whether or
            not this turned out to be the case once the appropriate spectroscopic
            measurements had been conducted. It may often be far less clear how a
            historical theory can offer testable consequences that are so unambiguously
            falsified or verified. If, for example, I come along with some bright new
            theory of Christian origins and you said 'Ah, but this directly contradicts
            such and such a passage in Josephus', it's always open to me to argue "No, I
            don't think Josephus means what you think he means here" or "Josephus is an
            unreliable witness, as much spin doctor as historian, and here he's simply
            being tendentious" or "Josephus was misinformed here" or "this bit of
            'Josephus' is actually a Eusebian interpolation" or whatever. Thirdly, a
            historical reconstruction may legitimately aim to 'read between the lines'
            and 'fill in the gaps' between sparse data in a way that cannot be directly
            verified or falsified (we can wait for another supernova to come along, but
            we can hardly wait for another HJ to pop up on Galilee). I'm not saying that
            the analogy between scientific and historical theories is totally valueless,
            but that at the end of the day they are rather different kinds of thing so
            that any analogy should not be pressed too far. If I understand him
            correctly, I'm simply getting at much the same thing here as Steve Black was
            when he wrote (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/crosstalk2/message/8108):

            >It seems to me that many scholarly methodologies can
            >(and perhaps are) be used utterly subjectively. This, to me, is not
            >so much of a problem, the problem is that the results are presented
            >as if some scientific certainty HAS been achieved, and that it wasn't
            >a subjective enterprise.



            Ron Price wrote:

            > The various criticisms of multiple independent attestation can also be
            > directed at its application to text families in textual criticism, yet
            > the identification of text families is still regarded as crucial in
            > textual criticism.

            Eric Eve:
            I confess have a couple of problems with your analogy here, Ron. First,
            you're surely not suggesting that the arrangement of texts into families and
            the reconstruction of the most primitive text form relies solely or mainly
            on 'multiple independent attestation', at least, not in the sense of simply
            counting documents that witness to a certain reading? I must be missing your
            point here. Perhaps your point concerns the existence of a reading in
            several different text families, but then the point is surely that they are
            not independent but witnesses to a common archetype. In any case, multiple
            attestation is hardly used in text criticism is isolation from several other
            criteria, is it (though I have no expertise in this discipline)? Second, I'm
            not so sure that the problem of reconstructing a textual archetype from a
            whole host of manuscripts is so isomorphic with that of reconstructing the
            historical Jesus from the fragmentary evidence available that methods
            appropriate to the former are automatically appropriate to the latter.

            Ron Price:
            > Beggars can't be choosers. We have to make the best
            > use of whatever tools we have in this field where hard evidence is such a
            rarity.

            Eric Eve:
            Actually, I have never denied this, nor was I advocating scrapping the
            criterion of multiple attestation. What I was doing was querying what it
            actually proved. The fact that hard evidence is such a rarity cannot justify
            the claim to have manufactured more of it through a method that is logically
            flawed, even if it is one of the few methods available.

            Best wishes,

            Eric
            ---------------------------
            Eric Eve
            Harris Manchester College, Oxford
            email: mailto:eric.eve@...
            Home page: http://users.ox.ac.uk/~manc0049
          • Bob Schacht
            At 05:07 PM 8/31/01 +0100, you wrote: [snip] ... This is an infamous stereotype repeated as a mantra by humanists which only reinforces C.P.Snow s book about
            Message 5 of 10 , Sep 1, 2001
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              At 05:07 PM 8/31/01 +0100, you wrote:

              [snip]

              >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 our data. I happen to agree with your statement above, but I don't
              > >have much support on this list for a "scientific' approach.
              >
              >ERIC EVE
              >Hm. I wonder what exactly you mean by 'scientific method' here (sorry, I
              >think the previous discussion on XTalk to which you refer must have been
              >before I joined). To me, the paradigm of 'scientific method' is what
              >physicists do, and I don't think that history is very much like physics.

              This is an infamous stereotype repeated as a mantra by humanists which only
              reinforces C.P.Snow's book about the Two Cultures. People who recite this
              mantra generally know very little about science, and don't want to learn
              any more. I think that you, perhaps like Fabrizio, think that all science
              is experimental. I suggest that you take another look at the methodologies
              of Geology, Astronomy, Paleontology, and a few other sciences that deal
              with the past and/or inaccessible places.

              >... But perhaps you meant something rather
              >different, e.g. 'scientific' more in the sense of the German
              >'wissenschaftlich'.

              David Hindley was right to characterize my approach as more akin to
              Popper's Logic of Scientific Discovery. The great strength of science is to
              proceed by stating hypotheses in a form that can be tested independently by
              any observer using the available data. Of course, science does have its
              limits. For example, "Jesus was the Son of God" might appear to be in the
              form of a testable hypothesis, but there really is no objective way for
              independent observers to test it using verifiable procedures. Science does
              not do well in predicting individual idiosyncrasies. It does do well at
              finding patterns in repeated events of the same kind.

              >But even then it might be interesting to reflect on the
              >different ways in which methods and observations are theory-laden in
              >different disciplines. In natural science this isn't too much of a problem
              >since the theories in question are well tested, highly coherent, and
              >almost universally agreed by the relevant experts

              HA Ha ha ha ha! Oh, wait, you must be confusing science and engineering?

              >(e.g. to set up an experiment to measure the mass of a quark must
              >presuppose a considerable amount of scientific theory, but, as I
              >understand it, the theory presupposed is something all experimental and
              >theoretical physicists would agree on).

              Your use of the word "all" is quite out of place. There is very little that
              *all* experimental and theoretical physicists agree on, and that small
              subset is pretty boring and doesn't occupy much attention. I notice here
              that you are not writing about testing any hypotheses, but about working
              out the implications of a theory, which is really more an engineering
              problem than a science problem.

              >How far can this be said for any 'theory' in HJ research?

              This sets up the wrong question. I'll give you a better example, using HJ
              research. Crossan's claim that the passion narrative is "prophecy
              historicized" is potentially a productive hypothesis, which led me
              naturally to the question that, OK, if prophecies are historicized, under
              what conditions are what prophecies historicized? This is a legitimate
              question of literary science. There are abundant examples that people talk
              about-- all GMatthew's proof texts, for example, might provide a rich field
              of examples. It might lead us to understand under what circumstances first
              century Jews might consider historical events a fulfillment of prophecy,
              and a host of other important issues. Unfortunately, when I suggested this
              to Crossan, he wrote back that he was only applying his claim of prophecy
              historicized with respect to the Passion Narrative, and did not want to
              discuss other examples. Furthermore, as it turns out, his explanation of
              the Passion narrative as prophecy historicized should really be termed
              prophecies (plural!) historicized, because it takes him half a dozen
              fragments of prophecies here and there in order to explain one "event". To
              take this a little further, source critical theories and solutions to the
              Synoptic Problem are essentially problems of the science of literature. The
              so-called "Criteria" and the "Rules of Evidence" proposed by the Jesus
              Seminar in The Five Gospels rest on a series of hypotheses about literary
              dependence.

              It is not necessary for literary hypotheses to be 100% true to be useful.
              Literary hypotheses could in principle be ranked according to how often
              they test out. Hypotheses that prove true most of the time are worth
              keeping, and those with a poor track record can be rejected or sent back to
              the drawing table for refinement. But people who do literary analyses of
              this sort are generally humanists, and the idea of doing the work of
              stating clear literary hypotheses, testing them (quantitatively!), and
              refining them to increase their accuracy seems to give them the willies,
              and so instead we get endless arguments that go around inconclusively in
              circles.

              The Five Gospels was actually a step in the right direction. However, they
              got distracted by calling too many things "rules of evidence" (some so
              called rules were not rules at all.) My point is that we can LEARN
              something from scientific method to IMPROVE our research methods, and I
              just don't buy the argument that we don't have the right kind of data.

              Bob

              Bob


              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Bob Schacht
              ... David, Indeed, you are right in this summary. There is something very powerful in the discipline of stating one s claims in the form of testable
              Message 6 of 10 , Sep 1, 2001
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                At 01:48 PM 8/31/01 -0400, David C. Hindley wrote:
                >Eric Eve said:
                >
                > >>I wonder what exactly you [i.e., Bob Schacht] mean by 'scientific
                >method' here (sorry, I think the previous discussion on XTalk to which
                >you refer must have been before I joined). To me, the paradigm of
                >'scientific method' is what physicists do, and I don't think that
                >history is very much like physics.<<
                >
                >I believe Bob was referring to a discussion about Karl Popper's theory
                >that hypotheses need to be falsifiable. In other words, a good
                >hypothesis is one that can be confirmed (as there is no good way to
                >measure the significance of those confirmations with regard to
                >establishing the hypothesis as true), but in their resistance to being
                >falsified. Bob asked, rhetorically, why this could not be done with
                >historical hypotheses.

                David,
                Indeed, you are right in this summary. There is something very powerful in
                the discipline of stating one's claims in the form of testable hypotheses,
                and then figuring out how to refine them when they only work some of the
                time. Refinements generally mean being clearer about definitions, or
                defining more clearly the conditions under which the hypothesis is meant to
                apply. These are all very healthy disciplines that help us to think with
                greater precision and clarity. Unfortunately, too many people engaged in HJ
                research are unwilling to submit to this discipline.

                > Some of us protested that when it comes to physics, the phenomenon can
                > usually be repeated under controlled conditions to test the hypothesis.
                > With historical data we do not have this option.

                Here you repeat Eric Eve's canard that seems to be the humanist mantra,
                imagining that all science is experimental. According to this stereotype,
                Geology, Astronomy and paleontology must all be unscientific. Fortunately,
                you seem to realize this error, because you go on to write:


                >At first I thought Fabrizio was thinking of was some kind of
                >"empirical" method, but now I tend to agree he was thinking of the
                >"experimental" method, calling it the scientific method, although
                >Science sometimes has to rely strictly on "static" data like we do
                >with history. Astronomy might be an example. There is no way to
                >control the variables, so you determine what processes should be
                >detectable if something, say a supernova, occurs, and you try to put
                >yourself in a position to capture the data that can confirm or falsify
                >the hypothesis the next time a supernova is observed by chance). So, I
                >guess, historical data is subject to some degree of "scientific"
                >method.

                And this is exactly correct.
                Thank you,
                Bob


                [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              • Eric Eve
                ... ERIC EVE Bob, I think we re horribly at cross-purposes here. The reason I wrote To me, the paradigm of scientific method is physics is nothing to do
                Message 7 of 10 , Sep 2, 2001
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                  BOB SCHACHT wrote:

                  >ERIC EVE
                  >>Hm. I wonder what exactly you mean by 'scientific method' here (sorry, I
                  >>think the previous discussion on XTalk to which you refer must have been
                  >>before I joined). To me, the paradigm of 'scientific method' is what
                  >>physicists do, and I don't think that history is very much like physics.

                  >This is an infamous stereotype repeated as a mantra by humanists which only
                  >reinforces C.P.Snow's book about the Two Cultures. People who recite this
                  >mantra generally know very little about science, and don't want to learn
                  >any more. I think that you, perhaps like Fabrizio, think that all science
                  >is experimental. I suggest that you take another look at the methodologies
                  >of Geology, Astronomy, Paleontology, and a few other sciences that deal
                  >with the past and/or inaccessible places.

                  ERIC EVE
                  Bob, I think we're horribly at cross-purposes here. The reason I wrote 'To
                  me, the paradigm of "scientific method" is physics is nothing to do with
                  repeating a 'humanist mantra' but in fact derives from the fact that my
                  A-levels were in maths and physics. Thus, when I hear 'science' these are
                  the disciplines that spring first to my mind! In the passage you cite from
                  me, I say "I wonder what you mean by 'scientific method' here", and that was
                  a genuine query, which you have now answered.

                  ERIC EVE (previously)
                  >>But even then it might be interesting to reflect on the
                  >>different ways in which methods and observations are theory-laden in
                  >>different disciplines. In natural science this isn't too much of a problem
                  >>since the theories in question are well tested, highly coherent, and
                  >>almost universally agreed by the relevant experts

                  BOB SCHACHT
                  >HA Ha ha ha ha! Oh, wait, you must be confusing science and engineering?

                  ERIC EVE
                  Have you found me out? (Actually, my first degree _was_ in engineering). But
                  seriously, I suspect we may be at cross-purposes here. When I referred to
                  'the theories in question' I wasn't referring to the cutting-edge stuff
                  which might well be disputed among physicists, but to the (probably by now
                  quite mundane) type of theory that needs to be presupposed in making
                  measurements (e.g. of such quantities as mass, charge, wavelength etc.).

                  >>(e.g. to set up an experiment to measure the mass of a quark must
                  >>presuppose a considerable amount of scientific theory, but, as I
                  >>understand it, the theory presupposed is something all experimental and
                  >>theoretical physicists would agree on).

                  BOB SCHACHT
                  >Your use of the word "all" is quite out of place. There is very little that
                  >*all* experimental and theoretical physicists agree on, and that small
                  >subset is pretty boring and doesn't occupy much attention. I notice here
                  >that you are not writing about testing any hypotheses, but about working
                  >out the implications of a theory, which is really more an engineering
                  >problem than a science problem.

                  Well, no, how else is one going to test a theory other than by working out
                  some of its implications and seeing whether they match observations? So far
                  as the first part of the paragraph is concerned, I think your objection to
                  my 'all' probably rests on a misunderstanding of what I took to be agreed,
                  which may well be much the same as what you refer to as 'that small subset
                  [which] is pretty boring and doesn't occupy much attention', i.e. the kind
                  of physical theory that must be presupposed in making a measurement (I'm not
                  sure that this subset is all that small, though, but I guess 'small' is a
                  relative term and it would depend what you were taking as the standard of
                  comparison). This may be as mundane as accepting that classical mechanics
                  works well enough at the mesoscopic level, quantum mechanics at the
                  microscopic level, and general relatively at the macroscopic level, 'well
                  enough' in this case meaning 'well enough for the purpose of taking
                  measurements' (of course this is an over-simplification, and should _not_ be
                  read as intended as a fully accurate description). Can you name one single
                  physicist who would disagree? (Again, I'm _not_ talking about discussions
                  about what quantum mechanics _really means_ or how all these should be
                  combined into a 'theory of everything' that is the ultimately true
                  description of reality; I'm talking about the working assumptions that all
                  [perhaps I should have written 'nearly all' since there might always be an
                  eccentric exception] physicists would take for granted).

                  BOB SCHACHT
                  >It is not necessary for literary hypotheses to be 100% true to be useful.
                  >Literary hypotheses could in principle be ranked according to how often
                  >they test out. Hypotheses that prove true most of the time are worth
                  >keeping, and those with a poor track record can be rejected or sent back to
                  >the drawing table for refinement. But people who do literary analyses of
                  >this sort are generally humanists, and the idea of doing the work of
                  >stating clear literary hypotheses, testing them (quantitatively!), and
                  >refining them to increase their accuracy seems to give them the willies,
                  >and so instead we get endless arguments that go around inconclusively in
                  >circles.

                  >My point is that we can LEARN
                  >something from scientific method to IMPROVE our research methods, and I
                  >just don't buy the argument that we don't have the right kind of data.


                  ERIC EVE
                  This suggests to me that we really have been arguing at cross purposes,
                  since I don't disagree with you in principle here at all. For example, in
                  the post to which you have just replied I wrote "Maybe we can learn
                  _something_ from the analogies with natural science", which actually doesn't
                  look that different from what you've just said. In fact, I think the process
                  of forming, testing and refining hypotheses probably is the right way to go
                  about HJ research. I also think that whether or not we have the right kind
                  of data is something that cannot be determined _a priori_ but can only be
                  determined by attempting the kind of procedure you describe. So I suspect I
                  must have misled you into supposing that my targets were other than they
                  are!

                  My concerns are not at all to rubbish the kind of approach you are
                  suggesting but rather
                  (a) To query what kind of truth-claim is being made by the use of the term
                  'scientific' and what feature or type of scientific method is being appealed
                  to (you have now answered that in a way that I'm entirely happy with, apart
                  from one or two reservations to be noted below).
                  (b) More specifically, to query whether the application of certain criteria
                  (e.g. multiple attestation, double dissimilarity) is as 'scientific' as it
                  is claimed (but of course, this in part depends on what the user claims for
                  it), or whether such criteria may sometimes embody questionable
                  presuppositions.
                  (c) To query whether the isolation of 'authentic' material by these type of
                  criteria is really the best place to start in HJ research (since there may
                  be the danger that such criteria contain presuppositions that effectively
                  imply some hypothesis about Christian origins or whatever), or whether it
                  would not be better to proceed more along the lines you describe (which
                  sounds more like a top-down than a bottom-up approach, at the risk of
                  oversimplifying). Of course, at some point one may need to combine both
                  approaches.

                  That said, I do have a slight reservation about our ability to test theories
                  'quantitatively'. If the sort of literary theory you have in mind is
                  something like a solution to the Synoptic Problem, then this is fine. If it
                  is more in the nature of a historical proposal about what Jesus was actually
                  up to in first-century Galilee, then my point is that there are fewer agreed
                  points of reference against which any proposal can be tested; but perhaps
                  your term 'literary theory' suggests that this isn't what you had in mind.

                  I hope that clears things up a bit.

                  Best wishes,

                  Eric
                  ---------------------------
                  Eric Eve
                  Harris Manchester College, Oxford
                  email: mailto:eric.eve@...
                  Home page: http://users.ox.ac.uk/~manc0049
                • Bob Schacht
                  ... Eric, Thanks for your continuing dialogue on these points. I think that your notion of what historical theory consists of is about a generation out of
                  Message 8 of 10 , Sep 2, 2001
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                    At 04:54 PM 9/1/01 +0100, Eric Eve wrote to David Hindley:

                    >Thanks for the clarification, but there are still some differences between
                    >your astronomical example and the business of testing a historical theory,
                    >are there not? In the first place, a theory about supernovae in general
                    >should be applicable to any supernova, so although one might indeed have
                    >to wait for a supernova to appear, any old supernova would do and the
                    >measurements should in principle be repeatable on any supernovae (or
                    >should it be supernovas?) that came along thereafter. A historical theory
                    >on the other hand is a reconstruction of a sequence of events and the
                    >causal relations between them that occurred once only in one particular
                    >time and place.

                    Eric,
                    Thanks for your continuing dialogue on these points. I think that your
                    notion of what "historical theory" consists of is about a generation out of
                    date. I suggest that you consult some of the works of the "new history" of
                    the past 30 years or so, and in general the field of social history. To see
                    an example of this sort of thing in historical Jesus studies, take a look
                    at Crossan's The Birth of Christianity, on p. 148:

                    "Cross-cultural anthropology indicates that peasant unrest and resistance
                    escalates as agrarian empires increase their commercializing activities and
                    take peasant land (not just peasant surplus)."

                    Crossan gets ideas like this from the intersection of anthropology and
                    social history, where the two have blended together somewhat.

                    Your point is valid with respect to specific events in the life of Jesus,
                    and the juxtaposition of personal biography and social history often leaves
                    people confused, because different research paradigms are being combined.
                    The theories of social history do not *directly* help establish whether or
                    not Jesus did something. What they can do is establish a credible context
                    for reports of his sayings or deeds ( I think this is what is sometimes
                    called the "Sitz im Leben" of the text). This is what the "Context Group,"
                    that Loren Rosson often speaks of, can help us with.

                    Sometimes on the contrary, social history might show that, say, a pericope
                    reported by Luke might make sense to a Greek audience in Europe, but would
                    make no sense to a Judean audience.

                    >In the second, if the theory about supernovas predicted (say) that a
                    >certain proportion of the elements hydrogen, helium and lithium should be
                    >observed in the supernova at a particular stage in its evolution, there
                    >would be little or no scope for disagreement among astronomers whether or
                    >not this turned out to be the case once the appropriate spectroscopic
                    >measurements had been conducted. It may often be far less clear how a
                    >historical theory can offer testable consequences that are so
                    >unambiguously falsified or verified.

                    See the above example from Crossan, which indeed offers testable
                    consequences that can be falsified-- not necessarily in the same place and
                    time, but in various places and times where circumstances are similar.

                    >... I'm not saying that
                    >the analogy between scientific and historical theories is totally
                    >valueless, but that at the end of the day they are rather different kinds
                    >of thing so that any analogy should not be pressed too far.

                    I think that you have exaggerated the differences.

                    > If I understand him correctly, I'm simply getting at much the same thing
                    > here as Steve Black was when he wrote
                    > (<http://groups.yahoo.com/group/crosstalk2/message/8108):>http://groups.ya
                    > hoo.com/group/crosstalk2/message/8108):
                    >
                    > >It seems to me that many scholarly methodologies can
                    > >(and perhaps are) be used utterly subjectively. This, to me, is not
                    > >so much of a problem, the problem is that the results are presented
                    > >as if some scientific certainty HAS been achieved, and that it wasn't
                    > >a subjective enterprise.

                    Of course it is possible to do bad science. "Creation science" comes to
                    mind. The other side of this problem is that the public too often regards
                    science as determining matters of *truth*. This is a misperception. Perhaps
                    "Truth" operates on a different ontological level than science? Science
                    seeks the best explanation for the data, and offers methods for choosing
                    between competing explanations. It has no way of saying whether the best
                    explanation is "true." For example, in physics there are two competing
                    theories about the nature of light: One that it acts like a particle,
                    another that it acts like a wave. Which is it? Which explanation is "true"?
                    Both explanations offer useful predictions about the behavior of light, but
                    last I knew it was yet to be determined which was "true." I suppose that,
                    in terms of the logic of knowledge, when a theory becomes widely accepted,
                    it then is assumed to be "true." Perhaps it might be instructive to look at
                    the "truth" value of the concept of Evolution. It has achieved widespread
                    acceptance, so that many people accept it as "true"-- but not religious
                    fundamentalists who prefer creation "science". Of course that picture has
                    been clouded by revisions to the theory of Darwinian evolution from the
                    Gradualist model to the more modern "punctuated equilibrium" model
                    of Steven J. Gould and others, according to which long periods of
                    stability are punctuated by rapid periods of evolution in some species. And
                    then you could get down to ontological arguments about whether mutation
                    happens by "chance" or by divine intervention... So science is often
                    perceived by the public as the purveyors of truth, to the extent that the
                    public has "faith" in science that amounts to scientism-- that is, they
                    have faith that science holds the key to the truth, and that scientists
                    thereby become the High Priests of the New Age: People have "faith" in
                    them, but don't really have any idea of what they do and how they work. At
                    that level, what really is the difference between science and religion?

                    My bottom line: That science, properly understood and properly used, is not
                    only a valuable tool of historical Jesus studies, but has the potential to
                    greatly expand our knowledge of the historical Jesus.

                    Best wishes,
                    Bob


                    [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                  • Eric Eve
                    ... Bob, Thanks, too, for continuing this dialogue on methodologies, though we seem to be a bit out of sync since your last reply appears to answer my
                    Message 9 of 10 , Sep 2, 2001
                    • 0 Attachment
                      BOB SCHACHT WROTE (Sun Sep 2, 2001 4:55 pm):

                      >Eric,
                      >Thanks for your continuing dialogue on these points. I think that your
                      >notion of what "historical theory" consists of is about a generation out of
                      >date. I suggest that you consult some of the works of the "new history" of
                      >the past 30 years or so, and in general the field of social history. To see
                      >an example of this sort of thing in historical Jesus studies, take a look
                      >at Crossan's The Birth of Christianity, on p. 148:


                      Bob,

                      Thanks, too, for continuing this dialogue on methodologies, though we seem
                      to be a bit "out of sync" since your last reply appears to answer my
                      last-but-one post and to ignore my most recent response. Perhaps there is
                      some technological reason for this (e.g. I'm looking at the correspondence
                      through the web site while you're getting it by periodic emails?).

                      Actually, I think now the problem may mainly be one of terminology. I'm not
                      unaware of the application of social scientific methodologies to
                      first-century history (I've attempted to use them in a small way myself, see
                      http://www.ecse.ukf.net/thesis/chapter9.html, although this is a *very*
                      compressed summary). If by 'historical theory' you mean something like
                      social history informed by cultural anthropology, cross-cultural
                      comparisons, and sociological models, then of course you are broadly right.
                      And I was aware when I was writing it that my description of 'historical
                      theory' in my post to David Hindley was not totally adequate; but perhaps I
                      was in too much of a hurry to get onto my main point.

                      BOB
                      >Your point is valid with respect to specific events in the life of Jesus,
                      >and the juxtaposition of personal biography and social history often leaves
                      >people confused, because different research paradigms are being combined.
                      >The theories of social history do not *directly* help establish whether or
                      >not Jesus did something. What they can do is establish a credible context
                      >for reports of his sayings or deeds ( I think this is what is sometimes
                      >called the "Sitz im Leben" of the text). This is what the "Context Group,"
                      >that Loren Rosson often speaks of, can help us with.

                      >Sometimes on the contrary, social history might show that, say, a pericope
                      >reported by Luke might make sense to a Greek audience in Europe, but would
                      >make no sense to a Judean audience.

                      ERIC:
                      Yes, I agree with all of that. But what I what in mind when I (perhaps too
                      loosely) used the term 'historical theory' was something that went beyond a
                      reconstruction of the socio-economic conditions of first-century Palestine
                      to describe the particularities of some aspect of Christian origins
                      (although I'd fully grant that such a theory might and probably should
                      incorporate the kind of social history you're talking about).

                      BOB:
                      >See the above example from Crossan, which indeed offers testable
                      >consequences that can be falsified-- not necessarily in the same place and
                      >time, but in various places and times where circumstances are similar.

                      Well, yes and no. I broadly agree in principle. Crossan's understanding of
                      the social dynamics of first-century Galilee is, as I recall from his _The
                      Historical Jesus_ (it's a couple of years since I read it) an integral part
                      of his reconstruction of the HJ. I have _no_ quarrel with this as a
                      methodology (like you, I'm sure that this kind of thing can only serve to
                      improve our understanding of these matters). But, to illustrate what I'm
                      getting at, someone could (and some people surely have) question details of
                      the social-historical reconstruction on which Crossan bases his account of
                      the HJ whereas *no* physicist would question the wave-particle duality of
                      light (see below). My point is *not* therefore that there is something
                      seriously wrong with employing social-historical reconstruction but simply
                      that it does not provide quite such a firm basis as a widely accepted
                      physical theory in natural science. This was partly what I had in mind when
                      I talked about comparing the way in which observations in the two
                      disciplines were theory-laden. All photons behave in the same way, but all
                      societies do not. We may indeed learn a great deal from cross-cultural
                      comparisons, but this is not an _exact_ science.

                      BTW, as a complete aside, has much been done with cultural-anthropological
                      work on evil-eye belief in relation to HJ research? If so, I haven't come
                      across it. For example, the apparently hard saying at Matt 5.28 would be
                      something of a commonplace in peasant Mediterranean society where evil eye
                      belief was rife (as anthropologists certainly believe it was in the Levant),
                      see e.g. David Gilmore, 'Anthropology of the Mediterranean Area', _Annual
                      Review of Anthropology_ 11 (1982), pp. 197-98, where he talks about the
                      emphasis "on the significance of the eye as an instrument of knowledge,
                      power, predation and sexuality... To 'see' others voyeuristically without
                      being seen gives intense pleasure and a feeling of superiority... The eye is
                      also the erogenous zone par excellence throughout the Mediterranean cultural
                      area... Simply to be 'seen' in these societies conveys powerful erotic
                      overtones." Jesus' teachings on wealth and possessions also read a bit
                      differently when set in the light of what I've read on evil eye beliefs. Am
                      I the only one to pick this up or am I just totally off beam here?

                      BOB:
                      >For example, in physics there are two competing
                      >theories about the nature of light: One that it acts like a particle,
                      >another that it acts like a wave. Which is it? Which explanation is "true"?
                      >Both explanations offer useful predictions about the behavior of light, but
                      >last I knew it was yet to be determined which was "true."

                      ERIC:
                      They're both true, surely. Light (or electromagnetic radiation in general)
                      comes in discrete packets or 'quanta' of energy (called photons) that
                      exhibit wavelike behaviour (e.g. interference patterns). The same,
                      incidentally, is true of _any_ particle at this scale (e.g. electrons).
                      There is problem in envisaging what this actually _means_, since at the
                      scale where such quantum mechanical considerations apply, our common-sense
                      notions of things such as 'particle' start to break down. But I don't _know_
                      of _any_ physicist who would describe these as 'two competing theories'
                      (though bear in mind I finished my school physics in 1972 and my engineering
                      degree in 1975, so I could be a bit rusty by now!).

                      BOB:
                      >My bottom line: That science, properly understood and properly used, is not
                      >only a valuable tool of historical Jesus studies, but has the potential to
                      >greatly expand our knowledge of the historical Jesus.

                      ERIC:
                      I don't really disagree with this at all. In the first post where I
                      evidently appeared to you to question it I was more concerned to find out
                      what you meant by scientific method. My suspicions haven't been those of a
                      humanist suspicious of or ignorant about science, but those of someone
                      originally trained as a scientist (well, an engineer, anyway) who gets
                      suspicious of humanists' appeals to science! In your case, I think the
                      suspicions were largely unjustified.

                      BOB:
                      >I think that you have exaggerated the differences.

                      ERIC:
                      Maybe, but there _are_ differences and I'm just anxious they should be
                      recognized.
                      I think perhaps I'd better wait for your response to both this post and my
                      previous one (8326) before saying any more. Besides, I've got a supper
                      invitation to run off to!
                      But thanks again for a most informative dialogue.

                      Best wishes,

                      Eric
                    • Bob Schacht
                      ... Eric, Thanks for your patience. Actually the reason is that I can t keep up with all the correspondence, and I m trying to deal with them in chronological
                      Message 10 of 10 , Sep 2, 2001
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                        At 07:58 PM 9/2/01 +0100, Eric Eve wrote:
                        >BOB SCHACHT WROTE (Sun Sep 2, 2001 4:55 pm):
                        >
                        > >Eric,
                        > >Thanks for your continuing dialogue on these points. I think that your
                        > >notion of what "historical theory" consists of is about a generation out of
                        > >date. I suggest that you consult some of the works of the "new history" of
                        > >the past 30 years or so, and in general the field of social history. To see
                        > >an example of this sort of thing in historical Jesus studies, take a look
                        > >at Crossan's The Birth of Christianity, on p. 148:
                        >
                        >
                        >Bob,
                        >
                        >Thanks, too, for continuing this dialogue on methodologies, though we seem
                        >to be a bit "out of sync" since your last reply appears to answer my
                        >last-but-one post and to ignore my most recent response. Perhaps there is
                        >some technological reason for this (e.g. I'm looking at the correspondence
                        >through the web site while you're getting it by periodic emails?).

                        Eric,
                        Thanks for your patience. Actually the reason is that I can't keep up with
                        all the correspondence, and I'm trying to deal with them in chronological
                        order! So if you'll excuse me, let's go back to your message
                        At 12:35 PM 9/2/01 +0100, when you wrote:
                        >...Bob, I think we're horribly at cross-purposes here. The reason I wrote
                        >'To me, the paradigm of "scientific method" is physics is nothing to do
                        >with repeating a 'humanist mantra' but in fact derives from the fact that
                        >my A-levels were in maths and physics. Thus, when I hear 'science' these
                        >are the disciplines that spring first to my mind! In the passage you cite
                        >from me, I say "I wonder what you mean by 'scientific method' here", and
                        >that was a genuine query, which you have now answered.

                        Good! And thanks for the notes on your background, too. BTW, have you read
                        any of John Polkinghorne, or Fritjof Capra ("The Tao of Physics")?

                        [snip]

                        >...When I referred to 'the theories in question' I wasn't referring to the
                        >cutting-edge stuff which might well be disputed among physicists, but to
                        >the (probably by now quite mundane) type of theory that needs to be
                        >presupposed in making measurements (e.g. of such quantities as mass,
                        >charge, wavelength etc.).

                        "Making measurements" is not the aspect of scientific theory-making that
                        interests me, in relation to HJ studies, except insofar as one must make
                        measurements as part of testing the implications of a theory, as you note a
                        little later:

                        >...Well, no, how else is one going to test a theory other than by working
                        >out some of its implications and seeing whether they match observations? ...

                        No disagreement there, as long as the focus of the measurement is on
                        testing a theory. I thought you had some other issue in mind.

                        [more snipping]

                        >ERIC EVE
                        >... I don't disagree with you in principle here at all. For example, in
                        >the post to which you have just replied I wrote "Maybe we can learn
                        >_something_ from the analogies with natural science", which actually
                        >doesn't look that different from what you've just said. In fact, I think
                        >the process of forming, testing and refining hypotheses probably is the
                        >right way to go about HJ research.

                        Agreed!

                        >I also think that whether or not we have the right kind of data is
                        >something that cannot be determined _a priori_ but can only be
                        >determined by attempting the kind of procedure you describe. So I suspect
                        >I must have misled you into supposing that my targets were other than they
                        >are!

                        I am delighted to be put straight on these matters. Thank you.


                        >My concerns are not at all to rubbish the kind of approach you are
                        >suggesting but rather
                        >(a) To query what kind of truth-claim is being made by the use of the
                        >term 'scientific' and what feature or type of scientific method is being
                        >appealed to (you have now answered that in a way that I'm entirely happy
                        >with, apart from one or two reservations to be noted below).

                        Good; I'm glad we've made progress there.

                        >(b) More specifically, to query whether the application of certain
                        >criteria (e.g. multiple attestation, double dissimilarity) is as
                        >'scientific' as it is claimed (but of course, this in part depends on what
                        >the user claims for it), or whether such criteria may sometimes embody
                        >questionable presuppositions.

                        I think some of the trouble here has been to refer to the "criterion" of
                        "Multiple attestation" as if everyone knows what that means, when it is
                        clear from recent exchanges that is not the case. Instead it seems to me
                        that what we need is a more fully-stated *principle* of multiple
                        attestation. To get at this, let us return to The Five Gospels and their
                        "Rules of Evidence," which are offered as "standards by which evidence is
                        presented and evaluated.... A standard is a measure or test of the
                        reliability of certain kinds of information." (T5G, p.16). This is a good
                        place to start. Unfortunately, in their enthusiasm, they wound up
                        presenting as standards things that make no sense *as standards*, but let's
                        not let that distract us here.

                        The principle of multiple attestation is presented as one of those "rules
                        of evidence" (which are all printed as bullets in red printing) on page 26,
                        but without the label, "multiple attestation":
                        * Sayings or parables that are attested in two or more independent
                        sources are older than the sources in which they are embedded.
                        This more full statement takes care of some of your previous concerns (and
                        those of others). It probably needs further refinement, but at least this
                        fuller statement is a better point of reference.

                        >(c) To query whether the isolation of 'authentic' material by these
                        >type of criteria is really the best place to start in HJ research (since
                        >there may be the danger that such criteria contain presuppositions that
                        >effectively imply some hypothesis about Christian origins or whatever), or
                        >whether it would not be better to proceed more along the lines you
                        >describe (which sounds more like a top-down than a bottom-up approach, at
                        >the risk of oversimplifying). Of course, at some point one may need to
                        >combine both approaches.

                        If any inappropriate presuppositions are built into any of our rules of
                        evidence, they must of course be exposed and corrected, which will result
                        in refining the rules of evidence. I think we are in agreement that this is
                        a good thing?
                        [snip]
                        >...I hope that clears things up a bit.

                        Yes it does. Thanks!
                        Now back to your most recent message:

                        >Actually, I think now the problem may mainly be one of terminology. I'm
                        >not unaware of the application of social scientific methodologies to
                        >first-century history (I've attempted to use them in a small way myself,
                        >see
                        ><http://www.ecse.ukf.net/thesis/chapter9.html,>http://www.ecse.ukf.net/thes
                        >is/chapter9.html, although this is a *very* compressed summary). If by
                        >'historical theory' you mean something like social history informed by
                        >cultural anthropology, cross-cultural
                        >comparisons, and sociological models, then of course you are broadly right....

                        Thanks; It is good to see convergence and better mutual understanding on
                        these points.

                        [snip]

                        >My point is *not* therefore that there is something seriously wrong with
                        >employing social-historical reconstruction but simply that it does not
                        >provide quite such a firm basis as a widely accepted physical theory in
                        >natural science. This was partly what I had in mind when I talked about
                        >comparing the way in which observations in the two disciplines were
                        >theory-laden. All photons behave in the same way, but all societies do
                        >not. We may indeed learn a great deal from cross-cultural comparisons, but
                        >this is not an _exact_ science.

                        OK, I'll grant that point.


                        >BTW, as a complete aside, has much been done with cultural-anthropological
                        >work on evil-eye belief in relation to HJ research? If so, I haven't come
                        >across it. For example, the apparently hard saying at Matt 5.28 would be
                        >something of a commonplace in peasant Mediterranean society where evil eye
                        >belief was rife ...

                        Can't help you here. My social commentaries unfortunately lack a subject
                        index, and Malina & Rohrbaugh's Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic
                        Gospels (1992) makes no comment about the evil eye in its discussion of
                        Matthew 5:28.

                        > Jesus' teachings on wealth and possessions also read a bit
                        >differently when set in the light of what I've read on evil eye beliefs.
                        >Am I the only one to pick this up or am I just totally off beam here?

                        Dunno. Maybe Leon Rossen knows.


                        >BOB:
                        > >For example, in physics there are two competing
                        > >theories about the nature of light: One that it acts like a particle,
                        > >another that it acts like a wave. Which is it? Which explanation is
                        > "true"? >Both explanations offer useful predictions about the behavior of
                        > light, but >last I knew it was yet to be determined which was "true."
                        >
                        >ERIC:
                        >They're both true, surely. Light (or electromagnetic radiation in general)
                        >comes in discrete packets or 'quanta' of energy (called photons) that
                        >exhibit wavelike behaviour (e.g. interference patterns). The same,
                        >incidentally, is true of _any_ particle at this scale (e.g. electrons).
                        >There is problem in envisaging what this actually _means_, since at the
                        >scale where such quantum mechanical considerations apply, our common-sense
                        >notions of things such as 'particle' start to break down. But I don't
                        >_know_ of _any_ physicist who would describe these as 'two competing
                        >theories' (though bear in mind I finished my school physics in 1972 and my
                        >engineering degree in 1975, so I could be a bit rusty by now!).

                        Well, this calls to mind Bill Arnal's phrase about the "worst kind of
                        harmonization"! The two theories ARE contradictory. Particle theory is
                        based on things that have mass, and photons of light are (or were?) not
                        thought to have any mass. Conversely, wave theory, if I recall, assumes
                        masslessness. If you examine the presuppositions of these two theories (as
                        you encourage us to do), they are contradictory. But then, my knowledge of
                        these theories is decades old, as well.

                        [snip]

                        >BOB:
                        > >I think that you have exaggerated the differences.
                        >
                        >ERIC:
                        >Maybe, but there _are_ differences and I'm just anxious they should be
                        >recognized. ...

                        In debates such as this, the point of raising differences is usually to cut
                        off debate and prevent dialogue between science and critical scholarship on
                        the historical Jesus. I am happy to recognize differences, as long as these
                        differences are not exaggerated and used as an excuse to ignore scientific
                        method.

                        Thanks for your patience,
                        Bob
                        Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
                        Northern Arizona University
                        Flagstaff, AZ


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