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Re: [XTalk] Re: Various Methodologies; Multiple attestation

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  • 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 1 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:
      >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 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")?


      >...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.


      >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

      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?
      >...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,
      >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.


      >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.

      > >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!).

      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.


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

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

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