Re: [XTalk] Multiple attestation
- At 09:22 AM 8/31/01 -0500, you wrote:
>Bob Schacht wrote:Bill,
> >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?
>Well, my own idiosyncratic take on this is that the HJ is mostly
>unrecoverable. Some negative statements can be made, but few positive ones.
My guess is that our different stances on this have, not coincidently, to
do with our different faith/non-faith stances. Too many "positive"
statements, and you might have to change your non-faith stance ;-)
> >There's nothing wrong with the Principle of Multiple Attestation, >IMHO.I think that you are imposing an unfair burden on multiple attestation that
> >The problem is deciding what qualifies as multiple?
>On the contrary. How would you respond to Eric Eve's (I think it was)
>comments about the two key weakness of this peinciple? 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.
go beyond its reasonable use, and beyond any claim that I was making. The
use of multiple attestation is not that it *proves* that something was
historical, but that it *increases our confidence that it is*, subject of
course to limitations that Eric mentions. It is, of course, not to be used
in isolation from other evidentiary criteria, but in concert with other
Besides, just a few days ago, you were criticizing my harmonization of
Paul's life precisely because I was *not* able to provide multiple
attestation for Paul's education in Jerusalem. Are you trying to have your
cake and eat it, too?
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- Bob Schacht wrote:
>My guess is that our different stances on this have, not coincidently, >toExcrementum taurorum, Bob. This isn't just off-base, it's also out of line.
>do with our different faith/non-faith stances. Too many "positive"
>statements, and you might have to change your non-faith stance ;-)
It MAY be that your own faith stance inclines you to be especially credulous
about the historicity of the gospels, but there are others for whom their
faith has no such implication, most famously Bultmann. On the other hand,
the fact that I am not a Christian does NOT require me to deny the
historicity of these materials, it just means I have no positive reason for
protecting their historicity. The evidence of the materials themselves is
what makes me doubt their historicity. And -- leaving aside the whole issue
of MIRACLES, which has already been discussed on this ad nauseum -- I am not
sure how the historical reliability of the gospel narratives would have any
effect on my personal stance to Xianity. If Jesus were really baptized, or
really did say this or that, or claimed to be the son of God, so what? Why
would that require my conversion?
>use of multiple attestation is not that it *proves* that something wasJust so. Which means that the issue is NOT so much, as you stated, figuring
>historical, but that it *increases our confidence that it is*, subject >of
>course to limitations that Eric mentions.
out what constitutes "multiple" as it is recognizing those limitations. I
was simply agreeing with Eric on this one. And multiple attestation CAN
demonstrate, very strongly, certian types of things. For instance, a claim
that a particular source INVENTED a tradition can at least be disproved by
showing that the tradition in question is attested independently of that
>It is, of course, not to be usedI also agree with this. But it does suggest that the criterion is not strong
>in isolation from other evidentiary criteria, but in concert with other
enough to be used on its own.
>Besides, just a few days ago, you were criticizing my harmonization ofNot at all -- I said I wouldn't be inclined to throw the principle out, just
>Paul's life precisely because I was *not* able to provide multiple
>attestation for Paul's education in Jerusalem. Are you trying to have >your
>cake and eat it, too?
that it does have its limitations. In any case, this is a bad example,
because the issue vis-a-vis Acts and the letters has nothing to do with
multiple attestation, and everything to do with the rudimentary distinction
between primary and secondary sources. If Paul says something about Paul
(with all appropriate qualifications, of course), who needs multiple
attestation? This is right from the horse's mouth. If Acts says it, though,
it isn't, and Paul's failure to mention it himself can be telling. It's
altogether a different issue.
Department of Religion
University of Manitoba
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