Re: [XTalk] Bailey's response; reply to Schacht, I
- The following I posted to XTalk at 3:24 PM CT, since it has not come to me as a post from cyberspace, I am sending it again, assuming that the gremlins in cyperspace have had a meal on it. If you have already received it, by chance, please disregard this post.
Robert M. Schacht wrote on November 30, 2001:
> Thanks for your post, long or short. Since you break this long messageinto
> a series of 4 sections, to wit:[snipped]
> it might help if you broke your message into 4 messages, advertising atthe
> end of each message what the sequel will be. That would give us morerespond
> bite-sized chunks to deal with. In fact, in this reply, I will only
> to the first of your four sections.A helpful suggestion. I will try to do that in the future, and will follow
your suggestion with my reply to the points you raise in this post. In this
current post I will respond to all but your last points. In your post to
me you quote me and then respond, thus:
> >...I quote the following from a section of my response to James Dunn'svarious
> >paper, which I posted to the Dunn Seminar on May 6, 2001; thus:
> >"... Of course, the voice I have in mind is that of Paul,
> >as he comments in his various letters on his observance on how his
> >churches adhered to faithful preservation of the oral transmission of thefact,
> >tradition they received from him. And the record in many of his churches,
> >according to Paul, is not good at all."
> >"For example, in writing to the Galatians, Paul is incensed over the
> >to quote Paul, 'that you are so quickly deserting him who called you inthe
> >grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel (hETERON EUAGGELION),or
> >not that there is another gospel, but there are some who trouble you and
> >want to METASTREYAI ('alter,' 'pervert') the gospel of Christ' (1:6f.).
> >If we accept Bailey's model of informal control as the modus operandi
> >exercised in the early Christian communities to preserve the integrity of
> >the oral tradition as received, how could the leaders of the community,
> >even the community itself, have allowed anyone to alter, much less acceptan
> >alteration to, the gospel Paul delivered unto them in oral transmission?hearing
> >Why did not those in leadership positions in Galatia say "no" to the
> >of a different spin on the oral tradition as soon as they heard it, andwhat
> >insist that whatever anyone tries to promulgate, which is contrary to
> >they received from their founder Paul, is rejected as false and tamperinga
> >with the truth? Why was not informal control being exercised to prevent
> >what Paul perceived to be the community's abandonment of the gospel
> >tradition he had proclaimed to them?"
> Well, one could argue that Paul's voice was evidence FOR Bailey's thesis,
> but the thesis would have to be modified to allow for informal control at
> distance, rather than within the community itself, as Bailey argued. Andof
> course for that, Bailey does not appear to have equivalent field data.That
> Paul won, in the long run, is a matter of record, since his letters remainSee my reply below on formal and informal control and also my reply in the
> but the words of his detractors appear to have vanished (at least, no
> manuscripts or letters of theirs have survived.)
post to follow which addresses the final point in your post.
> >"To press the issue further by citing yet another such case, in a seriesof
> >Pauline correspondence with the Corinthians, preserved fragmentarily inII
> >Corinthians (2:14-7:4; 10-13; 1:1-2:13/7:5-8:24; 9:1-15---so Gunthernot
> >Bornkamm, Dieter Georgi, et al), it is clear that Paul was "pushed to the
> >wall" in Corinth by the appeal of the gospel of certain opponents, who
> >only debunked the oral tradition Paul had left with the community, butserved
> >sought to discredit Paul's credibility and authority, which for Paul
> >as the very basis for the viability and authenticity of the community'sThe word "debunk" is defined in _Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged
> I think "debunked" is the wrong word, for it implies a reasoned rejection.
> The evidence you cite seems more a rejection out of hand rather than a
> debunking, as I understand the word. However, Paul himself rejects a
> reasoned gospel, when he writes that he preaches nothing but Christ, and
> him crucified (1 Cor 2:2; cf 1 Cor 1:17-25). So in Paul's case, and per
> Bailey's point, informal control did not rest on reasoned debate but on
> authority and other factors.
Dictionary_, thus: "strip or divest of pretentious, false or exaggerated
opinions, sentiments, or claims: "*to debunk advertising slogans*." That
is the sense in which I was using the term.
>>... It appears to me, in one more case, thatCorinth,
> >what Paul is railing against is precisely what is not operative in
> >namely, an internal, "informal control of the oral tradition" he gave theThe issue is whether or not "informal control," as Bailey conceives of it,
> >Corinthians in founding them as a Christian community."
> What these exchanges appear to indicate is that the loop of informal
> control was longer and more remote than Bailey conceived.
was being practiced at all in the early stages of the Jesus movement(s).
Bultmann's position to which Bailey and others take exception was that no
such control was exercised in this period. Bailey characterizes the
free-wheeling evolution and transmission of the oral tradition ("all is
fluid and plastic, open to new additions and new shapes" [_AJT_, 36), as
Bultmann viewed it, "as informal uncontrolled oral tradition" (see Bailey,
_AJT_,35f.). From Bailey's perspective, the informal control is exercised
only within the confines of *haflat samar* (Arabic for "a party of
preservation," as Bailey informs us, _ET_, 364). That is the premise upon
which his entire theory is based, namely the Middle Eastern communities
gathered within their respective *haflat samar* to recite the oral tradition
integral to their own particular identity and to exert "informal control"
via means, which I described in my 11/29 post and earlier essay, to ensure
and assure authenticity and accurate transmission of that oral tradition.
In other words, integrity of the methodology of informal controlled oral
tradition is predicated upon the regular formal meeting of an entire
community to conduct "informal" control of the recitation and transmission
of its oral tradition. "By informal we mean," Bailey states, "that there
is no set teacher and nor specifically identified student" (_AJT_, 40).
This distinction in nomenclature between formal control and informal control
is important to Bailey. The distinction is being made to differentiate the
methodology of informal controlled oral tradtion, as he defines it, from the
methodology which Harald Riesenfeld and Berger Gerhardsson argued was
operative in the transmission of the oral tradition about Jesus among the
earliest Christians. They posited that the authenticity of the oral
tradition was assured because it was transmitted by specially appointed and
authorized leaders in the early Christian communities in an analogous way to
which rabbis formally taught their pupils in the rabbinic tradition.
Bailey calls the Riesenfeld/Gerhardsson methodology "formal controlled oral
tradition" (_AJT_, 37). He rejects both the Bultmannian "informal
controlled oral tradition" methodology and the Reisenfeld/Gerhardsson
methodology as inadequate to explain the modus operandi that the earliest
communities used to pass on the tradition that originated with Jesus
himself. Bailey prefers a median position, reflected in C. H. Dodd's
interpretation of the way in which the oral tradition was disseminated among
earliest Christians and Bailey describes Dodd's position over against the
Scylla of Riesnfeld and Gerhardsson and the Charybdis of Bultmann with the
"In summary , the sayings of Jesus can perhaps be compared to water which
comes out of a spring at the top of a mountain. Bultmann insists that the
water seeps into the ground and disappears. Further down the mountain water
trickles out of the ground at various points and gradually gathers into a
small stream. Unsuspecting villagers who have never climbed the mountain,
yet knowing that there *is* a spring at its top, uncritically assume that
the water comes from the spring. In fact, most of it does not, but the
question is irrelevant. In sharp contrast, the Scandinavian school
answers-- no, there is an iron pipe fixed to a concrete catchment pool at
the very top. This pipe stretches all the way down the mountain and the
villagers can drink from it at the bottom, assured that they are drinking
pure spring water, unadulterated by the soils and plants of the mountain
side. Dodd and many others answer-- put the water from all the various
rivulets at the bottom of the mountain through a filter and you get the same
tasting spring water. Thus, there can be no doubt about a single source
for the water" (_AJT_, 37f.)
Bailey then goes on to state (_AJT_, 38): "Dodd suggests *no theory*
[emphasis: Bailey] as to how the water got down the mountain. The specific
purpose of this paper [the _AJT_ article] is to set forth a concrete
methodology model that we are hopeful may provide structure for a median
position." Thus, it appears,if I may pursue this thread a bit, that
Bailey, having been won over to Dodd's interpretation of the how the oral
tradition was passed on with some assurance that its authenticity was not
corrupted at any of the discrete moments of transmission, finds,
nevertheless, that the cogency of Dodd's position lacks something. It
lacks a clearly defined, articulated methodology to validate it. So Bailey
sees, as I understand him, that it is his task, picking up upon the imagery
of his analogy, to identify the nature of the filter and explain how it
works to assure that villagers at the foot of the mountain are getting the
same tasting spring water," as can be tasted from its originating source at
the top of the mountain.
Thus he alights upon what he calls the "phenomenon" of "a unique
methodology" (_AJT_, 39) which "our experience ...uncovered ... functioning
in traditional Middle Eastern village life," a methodology, "that provides a
structure for such a [Dodd] median position," a methodology, interestingly
enough, he notes, that "*has never been analyzed*" [emphasis: TJW] (_AJT_,
35). On the basis of this latter disclosure --- that this unique
methodology of informal controlled oral tradition, which Bailey claims to
have discerned via his experiences in Middle Eastern villages, "has never
been analyzed" --- a question rises in my mind. Are we to conclude from
that information that until Bailey no one else had ever recognized such a
methodology not only was in existence but also had functioned since ancient
times in Middle Eastern villages? Bailey gives the impression that he is
the first to discern the existence of informal controlled oral tradition.
He certainly does not cite in either his _AJT_ article or his _ET_ article
anyone who, previous to him, recognized that such a methodology existed.
How could social anthropologists who study oral, non-elite cultures have
missed the existence of such a methodology in the Middle East? Did Bailey
even consult any social anthropologists to inquire whether they were aware
of the existence of such a methodology? There is no indication in either
of his articles that he did.
> >"To put the issue in yet a different way, if informal control of oralpreserve
> >tradition was exercised as a rule within Christian communities to
> >the integrity of that tradition, as Bailey and you contend, why, in thetwo
> >cases just cited, was Paul forced to exercise formal control from outsideI use the term "formal control" in the sense that Bailey uses it to
> >the community to prevent tampering with the integrity of the tradition or
> >deviating from it or outright abandoning it?
> How do you distinguish formal from informal? Isn't this a bit early to be
> speaking of formal control?
described the Riesenfeld/Gerhardsson position on the dissemination of oral
tradition. In this sense, it certainly appears to me that Paul views
himself to be something like a rabbi and the Corinthians, for example, his
students. Consider this declaration of Paul in II Cor. 13:10, written in
the heat of the struggle over whether the Corinthians are going to persist
in being seduced by the supper apostles into abandoning Paul and his
kerygma: "So I write these things while I am away from you, so that when I
come, I may not have to be severe in using *the authority that the Lord has
given me* [emphasis: TJW] for building you up and not for tearing down."
That warning to the Corinthians sounds to be very much like Paul is
exercising formal control in the sense Bailey uses it. See also on this my
post to follow on your last point of your post.
> >"James Scott, drawing upon the nomenclature of Robert Redfield (_TheLittle
> >Community and Peasant Society and Culture_), argues for the co-existencein
> >pre-literate civilizations of two separate but interdependent forms ofdomination
> >social organizations. There was the social organization of the elite, an
> >extremely small minority of literate power brokers who exercised
> >over the masses of illiterate, essentially powerless peasants in thesocial
> >order which the elite governed. ... Within the context of the dominating'little
> >social order
> >of the elite, the non-elite developed their own indigenous social
> >organization as village polity-subset of the larger order. This village
> >subset social ordering was guided by the non-elite's own indigenous
> >tradition,' village customs and belief patterns developed over periods oftradition."
> >time and which provided historic meaning and identity for the non-elite
> >within the context of subordination to the elite and their great
> >"Scott's findings about the character of oral or little tradition in the
> >ancient world appear to me to conflict with Bailey's conclusion about the
> >informal control of oral tradition in the contemporary world, conclusions
> >which Bailey extrapolates from his experience in a Middle East village to
> >use as a template for understanding how village communities dealt with
> >tradition in the ancient world. Scott's findings suggest that the littleVillage
> >tradition of ancient illiterate, non-elite communities is more open and
> >adaptive to new formulations. ..."
> >[double -quote material within the single quotes is cited by Scott from
> >McKim Marriott, "Little Communities in an Indigenous Civilization,"
> >India: Studies in the Little Community, 196]."a
> >"From my perspective, Scott's suggestion that the illiterate, non-elite
> >villagers are inherently eclectic, and syncretistic with respect to their
> >oral formulation of their religious traditions, and that those oral
> >formulations are plastic, rather than fixed, flies in the face of and is
> >formidable challenge, in my judgment, to Bailey's argument.The
> I appreciate your use of Scott, but the case is not as strong as you make
> it to be, and "flies in the face of " seems like contentious hyperbole.
> parts of Scott that you quote do not necessarily apply to the situation in"this
> which the little tradition sets itself against the great tradition rather
> intentionally. The NT has many statements about resisting the pull of
> world," which might be a reference to the great tradition itself. ["ThisThe expression "flies in the face of" I did not intend to be understood
> world," BTW, is a phrase found mainly in Paul (1 Cor 3:19; 5:10; 7:31; 2
> Cor 4:4; Romans 12:2; Eph 2:2) and Gjohn.]
contentiously. But I can understand how you view it that way. The word
"contravenes" would have probably been a better choice. In drawing upon
Scott in this instance, I did not have in mind the issue of "great
tradition" vs. "little tradition." My point is that the character of the
oral tradition in oral, non-elite cultures is fluid rather than fixed, much
as Bultmann envisioned it, see above, in contrast to Bailey.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
- Ted Weeden [weedent@...] said:
>>He rejects both the Bultmannian "informal controlled oral tradition"methodology <<
Did you mean "He rejects ... the Bultmannian 'informal UNcontrolled
oral tradition' methodology"?
Cleveland, Ohio, USA
- Dave Hindley wrote Saturday, December 01, 2001 6:30 PM
> Ted Weeden [weedent@...] said:Yes, Dave. That is what I meant. Bailey rejectes the Bultamnian informal
> >>He rejects both the Bultmannian "informal controlled oral tradition"
> methodology <<
> Did you mean "He rejects ... the Bultmannian 'informal UNcontrolled
> oral tradition' methodology"?
uncontrolled oral tradition methodology. Thank you for catching the error.
I am sorry that I did not catch it. I hope others will note the needed
correction as you have.
- Ted Weeden wrote to Bob Schacht:
> Thus, it appears,if I may pursue this thread a bit, thatBailey
> Bailey, having been won over to Dodd's interpretation of the how the oral
> tradition was passed on with some assurance that its authenticity was not
> corrupted at any of the discrete moments of transmission, finds,
> nevertheless, that the cogency of Dodd's position lacks something. It
> lacks a clearly defined, articulated methodology to validate it. So
> sees, as I understand him, that it is his task, picking up upon theimagery
> of his analogy, to identify the nature of the filter and explain how itat
> works to assure that villagers at the foot of the mountain are getting the
> same tasting spring water," as can be tasted from its originating source
> the top of the mountain.If I may interject here, this analogy of the filter is useful for
illustrating what I find primarily defective in Bailey's theory. Though not
myself an anthropologist or folk-lorist, I have no problem with Bailey's
suggestion of primarily oral communities acting informally as a *haflat
samar* to insure the relative stability of tradition. For I see something of
that sort behind the 2nd c. proto-Orthodox insistence on the chain of
transmission of "apostolic" tradition within the major churches of the
eastern Mediterranean struggling with the open-ended novel revelations of
gnostic speculation. At the early end of this trajectory there is little
evidence of established "formal" control mechanisms in Xn writings -- i.e.,
appeals to the authority of specific scriptures or to the doctrinal
authority of designated community leaders whose job is to censure what is
taught. Rather, these formal controls seem to have been put in place
precisely because the informal appeal to "apostolic tradition" was
undermined by the claims of gnostic teachers/authors to themselves preserve
apostolic tradition. Once the formal filters of canonical scripture, creed &
episcopal magisterial authority were firmly in place in the major urban
churches (roughly ca. 140-160 CE) they could effectively be used to filter
out the fluid traditions emanating from extraneous sources (even traditions,
such as the gospels of Thomas & Peter, that included water from the same
sources as the canonical gospels). But the older informal filter of
"apostolic tradition" continued to be operative in Xn communities outside
the sphere of influence of the Great Hellenistic Church (now identified as
"heretics" -- i.e. sectarians -- by the latter) which continued to preserve
traditions & works that the major urban churches rejected. Witness the
demonstrable reverence of such marginalized Xn communities for traditions
ascribed to John or Mary or Thomas or Philip.
Thus, one by-product of my research on the evolution of the various elements
of the formal doctrinal filter of Greek Orthodoxy is the conviction that
early to mid-2nd Xns across a wide spectrum of Mediterranean churches
recognized the filter of informal oral communal control as too porous to
guarantee the purity of the "traditional" fluid it transmitted. If 2nd Xn
leaders from Ignatius through Hippolytus were skeptical of the ability of an
informal, non-hierarchical, oral community to keep apostolic tradition
uncontaminated from foreign elements, Bailey's claim that an informal filter
applied by Xn communities in the first generation of explosive missionary
expansion & relatively unregulated charismatic preaching could have
preserved the details of primitive Jesus tradition relatively unchanged is
rather historically incredible. Orthodox writers from Ireneaus on insisted
that the *formal* filters of episcopal authority & apostolic scripture were
authorized by the 12 themselves & thus guaranteed the purity of Orthodox
sources. If there is reason for historical skepticism regarding that
dogmatic claim, is there any reason to trust Bailey's theory that an
informal filter operative in the story-telling & preaching of Xn communities
during the first generation was able to keep the oral Jesus tradition free
from contamination by the ideas of other minds.
Bailey's analogy of the underground transmission of water from a mountaintop
source helps to point out the weakness of his whole filter theory in
interpreting the oral formation of the primitive Jesus tradition. In the
case of most mountain springs -- e.g., the sources of the Jordan on Mt.
Hermann above Caearea Philippi, one is able to test the water that emerges
at the base of the mountain against the water at the source. While water
drawn close to the source may still "taste" the same, close chemical
analysis will show that it has in fact picked up other trace elements from
its underground passage through rock & soil & other underground aquafers.
If one cannot locate the exact primal source itself, one can assess the
additives by comparing samples drawn from separate outlets down the
mountain. Similarly scholarly analysis of the Orthodox synoptic tradition
reveals the presence of foreign elements that have *not* been filtered out
by the process of its subterranean oral transmission even after the
introduction of a formal written filter. That is the reason for the whole
synoptic problem. Since there is no way for anyone to go directly to the
source in the case of the oral Jesus tradition, the only way to test how the
water "tasted" close to the source himself (i.e., HJ) is to introduce the
most advanced modern microfine filters designed to *eliminate* elements that
can be demonstrated to have been present in the soil thru which it passed
between its origin (HJ) & its first testable outlets (written gospels).
Simply to assume that any oral filters in place during the first stages of
formation of the Jesus tradition were sensitive enough to accomplish this
task is scientifically naive, especially when we have ample recorded samples
that indicate that even the introduction of writing did not prevent the
introduction & mutation of sayings & stories of Jesus in the tradition that
the greater Hellenistic church eventually canonized as "apostolic".
Mahlon H. Smith
Department of Religion
New Brunswick NJ 08901
Synoptic Gospels Primer
Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus