Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.
 

[gthomas] IMPORTANT ISSUES FROM ROBERT TESSMAN

Expand Messages
  • Strephon Williams
    In response to Robert Tessman s comments on my comments I have abbreviated. ... As you point out, who actually wrote the sayings and what was added has to
    Message 1 of 2 , Dec 29, 1999
      IMPORTANT ISSUES FROM ROBERT TESSMAN In response to Robert Tessman's comments on my comments I have abbreviated.

      Strephon Williams Wrote:
      >
      >> So to try and focus on literal meanings of a word has great limitations.

      > the idea of 'solitary' in one saying could have
      > absolutely no relationship to the word 'solitary' in another saying.  The
      > best we can do, to my knowledge, is understand a word only in relation to
      > the saying within which it is used--and even that is at best (since even
      > certain sayings within the GoT are, quite possibly, layered with editorial
      > expansions of the original sayings).

      As you point out, who actually wrote the sayings and what was added has to remain somewhat in the unknown. Then key words have meaning within context, which is one of my key points. But the other key point is to try and build up a consistent picture of what the historical Jesus actually taught and use this as a reference point for understanding word meanings in context.
      >
      >> * Solitary in ancient Coptic cannot mean exactly the same thing as it
      >> means in modern English.
      >
      > To an extent I agree with you here but I don't think it is that
      > complicated.  The idea expressed with such a word is 'a state of
      > singularity'.  Such a meaning is, in and of itself, ambiguous, not because
      > of translation per se, but because of the abstraction.  Such a word, in
      > English, can inspire thousands of associations within the mind.  This is
      > due to the generalizing nature of language itself and not the differences
      > between languages.  To the Greek speaking Thomean Christians, the word
      > 'Solitary' (Monos?) would have seemed equally obscure and unspecific as it
      > does to us, simply because it can connote many things at once.  The IDEA of
      > the word, at least, would be EXACTLY the same, in English and in Greek,
      > because it is an abstraction of some reality.

      This is a point I have overlooked. You focus on "solitary" being an abstract word so it is capable of a number of generalized meanings, thousands in English. So this backs us up into a corner then as to the extreme relativity of truth. I had hoped to get to some fundamental truths or statements about life based on the teachings of Jesus. Am I to give up the quest because the words are too slippery and we have lost ownership to who used the words and how they did? Am I to live my life as a complete relativist? I had hoped for more. My only hope is to build up a consistent body of what a master teacher (shall we name him Jesus) taught by cross-referencing the teachings and finding consistency within them. This is using the principle of consistency as a method for ascertaining "truth." Of course the assumption is that the world, that existence, is based itself on the consistency principle, that there are interharmonius laws and principles holding existence together, at least until "the final days."

      Was the quest all for nothing? Tell me . . .
      >
      >> * Looking at the word "solitary" as in the above passages I would suggest
      >> "alone" is a  functionally useful and modern word. "Alone" simply means
      >> being apart from others. "Solitary" means being apart from others but also
      >> implied is a sense of choice to be apart from others.
      >
      > The concept of "Solitary Confinement" doesn't sound like much of a choice.
      > It is true that many words in the English language that are supposed to be
      > synonymous with each other actually have some very subtle contrasts in
      > meaning.  But 'alone' and 'solitary' are the same in meaning.  They have no
      > emotional value attached to them unlike the words: 'lonely' and 'reclusive'
      > (both are similar in circumstance but dissimilar in emotive value).  But
      > 'Solitary' is an intellectual idea not an emotional one.

      Interesting points. I have so far kept myself out of "Solitary Confinement" through choice. Part of my quest with words is to get to core meanings which do evoke emotions, what in literature is called metaphysics like John Donne's poetry. So I try to ground all words, even abstractions, in the emotional level as well, even if not so done in general usage.
      >
      >> * 75) "Many are standing at the door, but it is the solitary who will
      >> enter the bridal chamber." This is an important teaching. If we can assume
      >> that one of Jesus' chief methods was to interiorize what for Jews was an
      >> exterior process then the bridal chamber is a metaphor for union and
      >> wholeness. Whatever the metaphor means to you the method in the teaching
      >> is that you have to make a choice not to do it as a group. Right here this
      >> ends Christianity which is a group religion of group beliefs and rituals.
      >> So your religious practice can only come about through separating yourself
      >> from the group. This of course goes along with the "narrow gate" teaching
      >> to get into the kingdom. Here then "solitary" is a choice to separate out
      >> from the group in order to enter the bridal chamber, the place of union of
      >> opposites.
      >
      > The phrase: "There are many standing at the door" seems to indicate the
      > idea of loitering.  Why are they just standing there?  Why don't they go
      > through it?  It's right THERE for god's sake!

      AGREED!
      >
      > Associating this saying with the "narrow gate" sayings is right on target.
      > The Many do not want to split up.  They would rather find comfort in
      > company than go through the door one at a time...if even it means splitting
      > from the pack for but a moment.  Most definitely, an ascetic agenda is
      > behind the creation of this saying.  Love of one's community, friends, and
      > family, is the very thing that hinders progress toward the Kingdom
      > according to this.  What's more, the Kingdom (or Bridal Chamber here) is
      > right there, possible at any moment, if only a person manages to find
      > courage enough to abandon their society.

      Agreed. Once we become clear on a teaching then our next step is to live it and be aware of what results obtain in our own lives. This is why I say scholars are not mystics and mystics not often scholars. If you can't be both how can you expect to go to the core with these very important words?
      >
      > Yet even if the idea of solitary-ness can be said to be consistently
      > portrayed throughout the GoT, It does not then follow that the historical
      > Jesus said these words.  

      If we use the thinking because we cannot prove something is true we will not take it as true, then we may lose out on much wisdom in life and much that is historical Jesus. If we do not act on our best guess of what seems true to us and test it out in our own lives, then we are really missing out on how we could be living our lives. Two kinds of scientific proof. To prove that something does not exist and to prove that something does exist. If I can find a possible meaning exists then I offer myself and my life as a testing ground to try out that Jesus teaching. If I am not fooling myself by trying to assert a truth rather than live it, then at least I can point to the quality of my consciousness, always leaving room for doubt while choosing certainty. Choice is the one absolute. How we choose is what we become.

      > The Jesus Seminar, for instance (not that I
      > necessarily buy into their idea of the historical Jesus), has condemned
      > every single saying you have referenced--as consistently using the word
      > 'solitary'-- in bold black ink--that is, definitely not the words of
      > Jesus--mostly because they reek of gnosticism.

      THE JESUS SEMINAR IS WAY OVERRATED. No amount of media publicity will do it any good if its premises are off. A good philosopher is trained to question the premises before even attempting to question the conclusion. The idea that you can reach consensus or majority rule on whether a word is authentic Jesus or not is contrary to logic. Number one, group thinking is always compromise thinking and not insight thinking. Number two, how people vote is based on their paradigm, here their picture of Jesus. Number three, I understand that all those scholars have so many different pictures of Jesus and his teachings that in no way are they actually consistent in their approach. Voting, the end result, looks consistent, but the basis on which each member votes is not consistent with every other member. Finally, I don't see the historical Jesus in any way teaching that groups can arrive at the truth. So they certainly are not consistent with what we know of the historical Jesus.

      > Therefore, the consistency
      > could evidence the existence of a single author (if indeed we have proven
      > there to be a consistency beyond the mere abstraction of 'oneness')--but
      > that author doesn't have to be Jesus.  It could be just some ascetic who
      > may have had a little bit MORE to say than what Jesus could offer.  In that
      > case, praise be to the ascetic, who made Jesus interesting.

      > Robert.

      As I spend my years on this material I can accept that I will never know the true, factual, actual Jesus of the historical past. But what I do know through my devotion and struggle with the scholarship, the words, the teachings, the principles, and the living of what I find there in my life, is that the gain is far more than if I did not struggle with this material. Is the historical Jesus living today? Maybe yes in a real sense through determining the teachings and practicing them. When key ideas come alive they  come alive in us. Which kind of person would you, would I, rather be, one who votes on what is true to Jesus and what is not, and maybe in the process casting pearls before swine, or would you rather be one who devotes sincere time and energy to the discovery process in these teachings because it makes a real and significant difference in how you live your own life and affect the lives of others? This is a general question. I appreciate very much your remarks on the material and my comments. As you can see, I am very moved by the material, the key issues and your response.

      Strephon
      >
      --
      Strephon Kaplan-Williams
      strephon@...
      http://www.dreamwork2000.com
    • Robert Tessman
      ... Honestly I do not think it is possible to know what the historical Jesus actually taught and wrote. It is possible to find peculiarities in texts and to
      Message 2 of 2 , Dec 31, 1999
        > In response to Robert Tessman's comments on my comments I have
        >abbreviated.
        >
        >
        >
        >Strephon Williams Wrote:

        >As you point out, who actually wrote the sayings and what was added has to
        >remain somewhat in the unknown. Then key words have meaning within
        >context, which is one of my key points. But the other key point is to try
        >and build up a consistent picture of what the historical Jesus actually
        >taught and use this as a reference point for understanding word meanings
        >in context.

        Honestly I do not think it is possible to know what the historical Jesus
        actually taught and wrote. It is possible to find peculiarities in texts
        and to see trends within the texts that come from obvious sources of
        philosophy (gnostic, pauline, old testament refrences) but it is never
        possible to start out with Jesus and get to the frauds. It is only
        possible to uncover the frauds from the great unknown (and the great
        unknown may not even be the historical Jesus). We can only understand what
        the final writters of the texts wanted us to understand, perhaps gain a
        glimpse into an earlier source, and maybe find a bread crumb of some
        obscured historical renigade. But the historical Jesus is lost forever,
        and nobody can claim valid evidence to the contrary--at least so far and in
        my doubting mind (I better be able to touch that wound if I'm going to
        accept it).

        >This is a point I have overlooked. You focus on "solitary" being an
        >abstract word so it is capable of a number of generalized meanings,
        >thousands in English. So this backs us up into a corner then as to the
        >extreme relativity of truth. I had hoped to get to some fundamental truths
        >or statements about life based on the teachings of Jesus.

        I apologize, I am not one for offering fundamentals of any reliable sort.
        It is only possible to talk about something and arive at any conclusive
        stance if we admit first that we don't know anything at all. What
        intregues me about the Jesus Seminar is that they make the claim that it is
        now possible in New Testament studies to start from the basis of 'not
        enough evidence' in order to find evidence for, rather than appealing to
        the church in order to say "um, excuse me mister, but may I be excused for
        saying that Jesus probably didn't say this?". Previously, Jesus said
        everything the gospels claim he said and one had better prove without a
        doubt that Jesus DIDN'T say something if that dangerous claim was made.
        Now we can start from a much more solid ground of "We have no clue" in
        order to find clues. In my humble opinion (and perhaps Jesus would have
        aplauded such humility), it is much more plausible that we DO NOT KNOW,
        than it is that we do. Fundamentalism is epistemological arogance.

        >Was the quest all for nothing? Tell me . . .

        I'm just challenging your reason, but if your 'quest' came to naught (which
        I highly doubt) because of this, I'm utterly flattered. But so far you
        have addressed very little of your so called "important issues" from me,
        but have instead, brought up your own.

        >> Associating this saying with the "narrow gate" sayings is right on target.
        >> The Many do not want to split up...[yadda yadda yadda]...

        >Agreed. Once we become clear on a teaching then our next step is to live
        >it and be aware of what results obtain in our own lives. This is why I say
        >scholars are not mystics and mystics not often scholars. If you can't be
        >both how can you expect to go to the core with these very important words?

        Scholars and Mystics have been at odds with eachother since there were
        words to distinguish the two. To a Scholar, a mystic will forever be
        caught up in abstractions and will never venture to define what they say.
        To a Mystic, a scholar is too close minded and does not participate
        emotionally with the things they are studying. Lets respect these
        differences shall we? You can be both if you like, but on a scholars list
        you are going to have to define your findings based upon certain standards
        of reason.

        >> Yet even if the idea of solitary-ness can be said to be consistently
        >> portrayed throughout the GoT, It does not then follow that the historical
        >> Jesus said these words.

        >If we use the thinking because we cannot prove something is true we will
        >not take it as true, then we may lose out on much wisdom in life and much
        >that is historical Jesus.

        We are not talking about wisdom in life. We are talking about a text that
        can reflect certain modes of thought during the time it was written. We
        are talking in terms of evidential history, not christian history or wise
        history but feasably acceptible history with room for doubt, not faith.

        >If we do not act on our best guess of what seems true to us and test it
        >out in our own lives, then we are really missing out on how we could be
        >living our lives.

        True. (smirk). But that is what LIFE is for, not scholarly debate.

        >Two kinds of scientific proof. To prove that something does not exist and
        >to prove that something does exist.

        Yes, we can prove that something exists (if we can prove it) but we cannot
        prove that something does not exist. Many N.T. scholars are trying to
        prove that the sayings of the historical Jesus do exist in the texts we
        have. But you see, the aim is to TRY TO prove that something exists FROM
        the assumption that we CANNOT prove such a thing YET. I am not attempting
        to prove that the sayings do not exist but I am challenging your notion
        that they do. Do you see the difference? (I don't have to work very hard
        on my end, but if you are going to try and prove something to exist you
        better work your butt off to show evidence for this). I'll admit I am a
        nay sayer but I have much evedence on my side to prove the existence of
        nothing. I prefer the easy route.

        >> The Jesus Seminar, for instance (not that I
        >> necessarily buy into their idea of the historical Jesus), has condemned
        >> every single saying you have referenced--as consistently using the word
        >> 'solitary'-- in bold black ink--that is, definitely not the words of
        >> Jesus--mostly because they reek of gnosticism.

        >THE JESUS SEMINAR IS WAY OVERRATED. No amount of media publicity will do
        >it any good if its premises are off. A good philosopher is trained to
        >question the premises before even attempting to question the conclusion.

        The premises are nothing short of ingenious.
        What I was stating above was that the premise for your argument, that is,
        that because three sayings consistently portrayed an idea then Jesus must
        be behind it, is based on the assumption that at least one of those sayings
        could be said to be from Jesus, when in fact there is good evidence to show
        that in fact NONE of the sayings were probably from Jesus. The consistency
        would therefore be more likey due to another figure, OTHER than the
        historical Jesus. (if there is any consistency that is).

        >The idea that you can reach consensus or majority rule on whether a word
        >is authentic Jesus or not is contrary to logic.

        Yes, I agree, I would rather read individual arguments for the historical
        Jesus than a group vote. The group mind of many distinguished scholars is
        going to be very dull compared to any one of them individually. A vote on
        the "Mediocre Jesus", I'd say! Agreed. But the premises are still valid,
        and very impressive nonetheless and the actual democracy of the whole
        affair doesn't take very much away from the logic they must use to support
        any decission.

        >As I spend my years on this material I can accept that I will never know
        >the true, factual, actual Jesus of the historical past. But what I do know
        >through my devotion and struggle with the scholarship, the words, the
        >teachings, the principles, and the living of what I find there in my life,
        >is that the gain is far more than if I did not struggle with this
        >material. Is the historical Jesus living today? Maybe yes in a real sense
        >through determining the teachings and practicing them. When key ideas come
        >alive they come alive in us. Which kind of person would you, would I,
        >rather be, one who votes on what is true to Jesus and what is not, and
        >maybe in the process casting pearls before swine, or would you rather be
        >one who devotes sincere time and energy to the discovery process in these
        >teachings because it makes a real and significant difference in how you
        >live your own life and affect the lives of others? This is a general
        >question. I appreciate very much your remarks on the material and my
        >comments. As you can see, I am very moved by the material, the key issues
        >and your response
        >Strephon

        To be honest, I don't believe there is much choice. I do what I have to
        do. Existence moves me as I can see it does you, and much within the Bible
        and the Apocrypha moves me and much that has been hidden has been revealed.
        Every human being is on their quest whether they like it or not. I am sure
        everyone on this list has a personal emotional relationship with the GoT
        and other litterature as well. Yet Just because a discussion is centered
        upon scholastic concerns does not mean people do not have their own ideas
        of who Jesus was/is apart from what they can rationally say about him.
        From this post, you seem to be under the assumption that I do not like the
        assumptions you have concerning that figure. Rather, I am arguing with you
        on a completely different plane of standards. I may disagree with your
        means but I don't necessarily disagree with your end. And in a scholarly
        discussion, everything rests upon the rational means to whatever end, not
        the end.

        Robert.
      Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.