Re: [XTalk] Re: Various Methodologies; Multiple attestation
- 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:
>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?).
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 wroteGood! And thanks for the notes on your background, too. BTW, have you read
>'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.
any of John Polkinghorne, or Fritjof Capra ("The Tao of Physics")?
>...When I referred to 'the theories in question' I wasn't referring to the"Making measurements" is not the aspect of scientific theory-making that
>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.).
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
>...Well, no, how else is one going to test a theory other than by workingNo disagreement there, as long as the focus of the measurement is on
>out some of its implications and seeing whether they match observations? ...
testing a theory. I thought you had some other issue in mind.
>... 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 isI am delighted to be put straight on these matters. Thank you.
>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
>My concerns are not at all to rubbish the kind of approach you areGood; I'm glad we've made progress there.
>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 certainI think some of the trouble here has been to refer to the "criterion" of
>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
"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 theseIf any inappropriate presuppositions are built into any of our rules of
>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.
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?
>...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'mThanks; It is good to see convergence and better mutual understanding on
>not unaware of the application of social scientific methodologies to
>first-century history (I've attempted to use them in a small way myself,
>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....
>My point is *not* therefore that there is something seriously wrong withOK, I'll grant that point.
>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-anthropologicalCan't help you here. My social commentaries unfortunately lack a subject
>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 ...
index, and Malina & Rohrbaugh's Social Science Commentary on the Synoptic
Gospels (1992) makes no comment about the evil eye in its discussion of
> Jesus' teachings on wealth and possessions also read a bitDunno. Maybe Leon Rossen knows.
>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:Well, this calls to mind Bill Arnal's phrase about the "worst kind of
> >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."
>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!).
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.
>BOB:In debates such as this, the point of raising differences is usually to cut
> >I think that you have exaggerated the differences.
>Maybe, but there _are_ differences and I'm just anxious they should be
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
Thanks for your patience,
Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
Northern Arizona University
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