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Re: [XTalk] Bailey's response; reply to Schacht, I

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  • Ted Weeden
    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
    Message 1 of 5 , Dec 1, 2001
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      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.

      Ted Weeden

      Robert M. Schacht wrote on November 30, 2001:

      > Thanks for your post, long or short. Since you break this long message
      into
      > a series of 4 sections, to wit:
      [snipped]
      > it might help if you broke your message into 4 messages, advertising at
      the
      > end of each message what the sequel will be. That would give us more
      > bite-sized chunks to deal with. In fact, in this reply, I will only
      respond
      > 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's
      > >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
      various
      > >churches adhered to faithful preservation of the oral transmission of the
      > >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
      fact,
      > >to quote Paul, 'that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in
      the
      > >grace of Christ and turning to a different gospel (hETERON EUAGGELION),
      > >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,
      or
      > >even the community itself, have allowed anyone to alter, much less accept
      an
      > >alteration to, the gospel Paul delivered unto them in oral transmission?
      > >Why did not those in leadership positions in Galatia say "no" to the
      hearing
      > >of a different spin on the oral tradition as soon as they heard it, and
      > >insist that whatever anyone tries to promulgate, which is contrary to
      what
      > >they received from their founder Paul, is rejected as false and tampering
      > >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
      a
      > distance, rather than within the community itself, as Bailey argued. And
      of
      > 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 remain
      > but the words of his detractors appear to have vanished (at least, no
      > manuscripts or letters of theirs have survived.)

      See my reply below on formal and informal control and also my reply in the
      post to follow which addresses the final point in your post.

      > >"To press the issue further by citing yet another such case, in a series
      of
      > >Pauline correspondence with the Corinthians, preserved fragmentarily in
      II
      > >Corinthians (2:14-7:4; 10-13; 1:1-2:13/7:5-8:24; 9:1-15---so Gunther
      > >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
      not
      > >only debunked the oral tradition Paul had left with the community, but
      > >sought to discredit Paul's credibility and authority, which for Paul
      served
      > >as the very basis for the viability and authenticity of the community's
      > >faith.

      > 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.

      The word "debunk" is defined in _Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged
      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, that
      > >what Paul is railing against is precisely what is not operative in
      Corinth,
      > >namely, an internal, "informal control of the oral tradition" he gave the
      > >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.

      The issue is whether or not "informal control," as Bailey conceives of it,
      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
      following analogy:

      "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 oral
      > >tradition was exercised as a rule within Christian communities to
      preserve
      > >the integrity of that tradition, as Bailey and you contend, why, in the
      two
      > >cases just cited, was Paul forced to exercise formal control from outside
      > >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?

      I use the term "formal control" in the sense that Bailey uses it to
      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 (_The
      Little
      > >Community and Peasant Society and Culture_), argues for the co-existence
      in
      > >pre-literate civilizations of two separate but interdependent forms of
      > >social organizations. There was the social organization of the elite, an
      > >extremely small minority of literate power brokers who exercised
      domination
      > >over the masses of illiterate, essentially powerless peasants in the
      social
      > >order which the elite governed. ... Within the context of the dominating
      > >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
      'little
      > >tradition,' village customs and belief patterns developed over periods of
      > >time and which provided historic meaning and identity for the non-elite
      > >within the context of subordination to the elite and their great
      tradition."
      > >
      > >"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
      oral
      > >tradition in the ancient world. Scott's findings suggest that the little
      > >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,"
      Village
      > >India: Studies in the Little Community, 196]."
      > >
      > >"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
      a
      > >formidable challenge, in my judgment, to Bailey's argument.

      > 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.
      The
      > parts of Scott that you quote do not necessarily apply to the situation in
      > which the little tradition sets itself against the great tradition rather
      > intentionally. The NT has many statements about resisting the pull of
      "this
      > world," which might be a reference to the great tradition itself. ["This
      > 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.]

      The expression "flies in the face of" I did not intend to be understood
      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]
    • David C. Hindley
      ... methodology
      Message 2 of 5 , Dec 1, 2001
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        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"?

        Respectfully,

        Dave Hindley
        Cleveland, Ohio, USA
      • Ted Weeden
        Dave Hindley wrote Saturday, December 01, 2001 6:30 PM ... Yes, Dave. That is what I meant. Bailey rejectes the Bultamnian informal uncontrolled oral
        Message 3 of 5 , Dec 1, 2001
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          Dave Hindley wrote Saturday, December 01, 2001 6:30 PM

          > 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"?

          Yes, Dave. That is what I meant. Bailey rejectes the Bultamnian informal
          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.

          With appreciation,

          Ted
        • Mahlon H. Smith
          ... Bailey ... imagery ... at ... If I may interject here, this analogy of the filter is useful for illustrating what I find primarily defective in Bailey s
          Message 4 of 5 , Dec 2, 2001
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            Ted Weeden wrote to Bob Schacht:

            > 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.
            >

            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".

            Shalom!

            Mahlon

            Mahlon H. Smith
            Department of Religion
            Rutgers University
            New Brunswick NJ 08901

            http://religion.rutgers.edu/mh_smith.html

            Synoptic Gospels Primer
            http://religion.rutgers.edu/nt/primer/

            Into His Own: Perspective on the World of Jesus
            http://religion.rutgers.edu/iho/
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