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RE: [GTh] Saying 7

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  • Rick Hubbard
    JUDY: I actually think that the scientific method is not the most useful way of approaching the analysis of ancient texts in that it starts with an hypothesis
    Message 1 of 11 , May 1, 2010
      JUDY: I actually think that the scientific method is not the most useful way
      of approaching the analysis of ancient texts in that it starts with an
      hypothesis which you need to test. I think that having an hypothesis when
      you approach an ancient text is problematic, because you tend only to see
      things that support your hypothesis and to interpret things in ways that
      support your hypothesis. I think it's much better to start with a question
      like "how are these two texts related?" or "what is this piece of text
      saying?" which doesn't put fences around your potential conclusions.

      RICK: Sentence two, above, gets at the heart of the matter, IMO. There is
      the danger that at all points during the analysis of a text (whether an
      actual **written** text or one of a more "metaphorical" nature) one tends to
      wear the presuppositions of the hypothesis as lenses through which one
      observes the subject at hand. A case in point, with respect to looking at
      written texts, is the discussion we have been having about the choice of
      reading the word "usurer" or "good man" in the damaged portion of the MS
      that is the beginning of L 65. If we step back and look at Patterson's (and
      Kloppenborg's) overall approach to Thomas it is clear that they are working
      as social historians. As such, they have in their minds certain conclusions
      about the historical context in which the sayings collection developed and
      so it is perhaps understandable (or inevitable?) that they would propose
      reading "usurer" rather than "good man" because that reading best "fits"
      with their presuppositions.

      It seems to me that the propensity to interpret what we see according to the
      lenses we choose to look through invariably shapes our conclusions about the
      subject matter, whether the subject matter is, as I said, a written or
      "metaphorical" text. I think I have mentioned this example before (years
      ago) but when I lived "out west" there was a wonderful range of hills in the
      center of the valley where I lived (and they are no doubt still there). I
      spent a great deal of time in those hills- they were my text that I read
      whenever I was walking through them From my "reading" I had developed a
      certain understanding about the hill's "meaning." Now, down the street from
      where I lived was a big-shot home-builder/land-developer. He had his own
      interpretation of the meaning of those same hills. He had in fact exerted
      much time and money describing the hills as he saw them by creating sets of
      highly detailed plans and conceptual drawings for an upscale housing
      development. Clearly, our interpretations were radically different. Who
      could judge which reading was correct?

      BOB: <snip> I think it is often a most excellent idea to have a hypothesis
      to test when approaching the issues posed by ancient texts. It can lead to
      clarity of thought, and pushes one to be more precise in one's arguments.

      This is the proverbial "other side of the coin". It is virtually impossible
      to investigate a text (or any subject for that matter) unless one
      pre-defines, at some level, what one hopes to see. When I misplace my car
      keys (a more or less regular occurrence) and begin looking for them I see
      many other things during my search but I ignore them all because what I want
      to see are my car keys. So, when we look at sets of texts in search of
      "relationships" how likely is it that we are going to see anything other
      than relationships? But, on the other hand if we are just browsing, not
      looking for anything in particular, how likely is it that we would recognize
      the most obvious word-for-word connections between two otherwise unrelated

      Hypotheses are, of course, a necessary part of "the Path to Truth and
      Beauty" or less noble sounding destinations such as the general advancement
      of collective understanding. It seems to me, then that the prudent thing to
      do is to be keenly aware of what the hypothesis is and to be willing to
      modify it as circumstances warrant. Not doing so could result in overlooking
      a misplaced twenty-dollar bill while searching for a set of car keys.

      Rick Hubbard
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