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Re: [gthomas] Definitions, please (Was: Circumcision, #53)

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  • Scott M. Williams
    ... I admit my question may seem out-of-the-blue, but I must ask because of the popular reference to redaction-criticism. What is your view on the existence or
    Message 1 of 32 , Aug 5, 2000
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      Bill wrote:

      >Um, what do you mean by "an already held position"? As for
      >what makes me say this, the entirety of form-critical and
      >redaction-critical studies since WW1.

      I admit my question may seem out-of-the-blue, but I must ask because of the
      popular reference to redaction-criticism. What is your view on the
      existence or non-existence of determinate-meaning within a text? For it
      seems to me that by affirming redaction-criticism you assume a
      determinate-meaning [Mark is such and such.. proto-Mark is such and such..
      Matthew is such and such], is this so?
      IF you do not affirm a determinate-meaning within a text, how then can you
      even begin to think you are talking about what Mark or Matthew actually
      believed or thought about Jesus or circumcision or the Law? If on the
      other hand, you do affirm determinate-meaning, on what grounds do or can
      you affirm this?
      Certainly it cannot be based on redaction-criticism alone, as persons like
      Stanley Fish and Jacques Derrida have de-constructed New
      Criticism/Formalism, which I suppose may have been the intellectual roots
      for form-criticism and redaction-criticism. Which, if form-criticism and
      redaction-criticism likewise has been de-constructed, why should we
      privilege either methodology? Unless of course, there is another
      possibility besides what Fish or Derrida have done or un-done.

      To make my point as clear as possible, I would like to suggest that
      redaction-criticism must be tempered by a Realist hermeneutics,
      rationality, and responsibility [as Prof. Kevin Vanhoozer of Univ. of
      Edinburgh has put forth in _The Bible, The Reader, and The Morality of
      Literary Knowledge- Is There a Meaning in This Text?_] which allows for the
      possibility of multiple [plural] non-contradictory descriptions of a
      singular event or text, namely, the unity in diversity [diverse contexts:
      Jewish or Gentile audiences] of the 4 [canonical] Gospels concerning the
      historical person of Jesus.

      Scott M. Williams


      At 07:11 PM 08/05/2000 -0400, you wrote:
      >
      >On Sun, 6 Aug 2000, Isidoros wrote:
      >
      >> Why, gentlepeople, think you that "Jesus was a Jew"? Can you, please,
      >> be about such a categorical statement equally specific?
      >
      >The lack of specificity was precisely what I was complaining
      >about. I *assume* Jesus was a Jew because his followers
      >consistently refer his message to that of the Jewish God,
      >variously conceived. I.e., Jesus is never made to say
      >anything like, "blessed are the poor, for Zeus will reward
      >them." But I don't think we CAN be more specific, nor do I
      >think that we can infer from the statement "Jesus was a
      >Jew" much of anything substantial about his behavior,
      >beliefs, and so on. Lots of different ways of being a Jew,
      >then as now.
      >
      >> Bill, what makes you say that Jesus, the gospel "character", is fictitious?
      >> Is that an already held position?
      >
      >Um, what do you mean by "an already held position"? As for
      >what makes me say this, the entirety of form-critical and
      >redaction-critical studies since WW1.
      >
      >> And, Bill, while I have read numerous of your contributions to the old
      >> Ioudaios-L and Crosstalk lists, I do not remember ever your accepting,
      >> let alone asserting, the first argument. But, excuse me if memory fails,
      >> and direct me to where you may have provided analytic evidence for these.
      >
      >What argument?
      >
      >Bill
      >________________________________________
      >William E. Arnal e-mail: wea1@...
      >Religious Studies/Classics Check out my web page, at:
      >New York University http://pages.nyu.edu/~wea1/
      >
      >Is there an ursine proclivity for sylvan defecation?
      >
      >
      >
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    • Isidoros
      Apologies for the lateness to respond, to several posts and this, Mike G s of Aug. 12, but for being away from my e-desk, as, too, for some rather large chunks
      Message 32 of 32 , Aug 22, 2000
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        Apologies for the lateness to respond, to several posts and this, Mike G's of
        Aug. 12, but for being away from my e-desk, as, too, for some rather large
        chunks of M's message I am about to unload on you, for the lapsed time and
        (my) memory.


        >For the immediately following 53.3, Isidoros proposes:
        >"... it is through (my own) true (kind of) "spiritual"
        > circumcision (that one) realizes life thoroughly".
        >
        >in lieu of something like Lambdin's (NHLe):
        >
        >"... the true circumcision in spirit has become completely profitable."
        >
        >In defense of his reading, Isidoros says:
        >>... thinking conditioned by patterns already established by previous
        >> translations may not so readily agree with a novel reading, and so
        >> not be so willing to support it.
        >
        >But it was not to such "conditioning" that I made appeal when I called
        >Isidoros' reading "insupportable", to the point of not being translation at
        >all. It was by appeal to the (Coptic) words themselves, as defined by many
        >translators over many years of translating many different kinds of Coptic
        >texts. It's true, for example, that the translator has become "conditioned"
        >to reading the Coptic word 'sebbe' as 'circumcision', but that's because
        >that's the meaning that has been found to best fit its usage in at least
        >hundreds of different contexts in hundreds of different texts.

        Granted, most all lexicographers compile word lists to subsequently form
        dictionaries on the bases of the perceived semantic "correspondences".
        A necessary but insufficient method for rendering texts of many layered
        semasiae, such as GThomas, or of the gospels, intended to be generally
        inaccessible but, maybe, eventually to the catechumens. The often intended
        obscurity or double play involved is precisely designed to withstand a
        surface level "decoding", though even ordinarily subtle nuances are very
        often lost, and not only on fast tracking assistants and graduate students.
        Not to forget the textual rarity of certain words, which hardly allow for
        correspondences.

        Let us, indeed, take the word that you use as an example, Mike, 'sebbe',
        'circumcision', you say, associating it with the verb ?sebi', to circumcise.
        And you give this straight out, as if it is the only meaning, as if this is an
        exact, one-to-one, objective semantic correspondence always. You
        evidently are not aware that in several lexicons 'sebe', or more precisely,
        as is the #53 reference, 'sbbe' has an 'unknown' meaning -- and it is
        on this "basis" that I, in fact, had alluded to Joe L. of a
        "difference", as, too,
        I spoke later of a "play in words, the double meaning played upon the
        two CBBE".

        I had written about this very point to Joe:

        < "circumcision", very unfortunately, is one of the many
        and terribly misunderstood, and (won't exaggerate by adding)
        tragically mis-taken, terms in the whole of the misbegotten
        biblical tradition as has come down to most all of us >

        >In addition,
        >in those many cases where we have in view the same text in another language
        >(typically Greek), the Coptic word 'sebbe' has been found in precisely
        >those places where the Greek text contains a Greek word that has been
        >independently translated as 'circumcision'.

        "... a Greek word that has been independently translated as 'circumcision'"
        you say, from what language, Mike? Would you please be specific about it?


        >And this same is true also of
        >the verbal phrase in question, namely 'find beneficial', which Isidoros
        >renders as 'realize life'.

        No. It is not the said 'find beneficial' that I translate as you say
        'realize life'.
        It is the 'find beneficial', Lambdin's (NHLe)"profitable", or the said literal
        'has found profit' that I render as "realize", in the (intended)
        double sense of
        "gain" and of "realization" (as in what we sometimes say to "realize profit".)
        "Life" was meant there to be within a parenthesis or brackets, to explicate
        the meaning intended; it is not on the logion text. I was eager to let Joe see
        some of what lays there below the surface of the text, so I used it,
        non-qualified.
        This is one benefit "realized" out of this exchange. So, #53c should read:

        "... it is through (my own) true (kind of) "spiritual"
        circumcision (that one) realizes (life) thoroughly".


        [A couple of paragraphs about the sentence's sense and clarity of translation
        snipped. Think enough has been said on the matter].


        >A literal rendering of 53.3 would be something like the following [...]
        >
        >(a) "true circumcision in(the)spirit, he(it) has found profit, all of it"
        >[....]
        >The 'he' in (a) evidently refers back to the (masculine) noun
        >'circumcision', rather than to "their father" mentioned in 53.2. What is
        >evidently going on, then, is that 'circumcision' is being personified in
        >53.3, i.e., treated as a person instead of a thing (compare the
        >personification of 'sophia' ['wisdom'] elsewhere). The result is an
        >immediate lack of sensibility, since we expect that only persons can "find
        >profit". We can get around this awkwardness only by avoiding the
        >personification of 'sebbe', and rendering it more freely as:

        In noting the gender "discrepancy", you hit the, so to speak, "nail" on the
        "head", Mike. Even if you (it is evident to me) have no idea what is meant
        there. It again has to do with your previous "objective" taking of 'sbbe'.
        And, no, your "more freely" rendering this as

        >(b) "true circumcision in(the)spirit has become completely profitable"

        won't do the trick. Not only the "awkwardness" remains, but you ought,
        in any case, not make away with the "personification of 'sebbe'". After all,
        it?s in the text isn't it?

        >Mike

        Isidoros
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