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170[HJMatMeth] Re: The Cynic Jesus

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  • Dawson, Gail
    Mar 2, 2000
      Dear Dominic,

      I have been thinking about and absorbing the dialogue of these past three
      weeks. Thanks so much for doing this! You've sparked ideas for discussion
      on Crosstalk and in other venues for a long time to come.

      You raised an issue in your posting on the Cynic Jesus that I too noticed
      (and was taken aback by) when I began to study your historical Jesus work
      vis a vis that of certain other self-identified Jesus scholars. You noted:

      "It is, however,
      only a small part of the recent shift from academic argumentation (I will
      make your case as accurate and strong as I can before I demolish it) to
      political argumentation (I will make your case as dumb and silly as I can
      before I demolish you). I am not too happy with that aspect of the recent
      Jesus Wars."

      I've been struck by this as well. What is supposed to be historical
      discourse is consistently marked by polemics (Wright & Johnson come
      instantly to mind). Allison, it seems to me, was a little more subtle in
      his recent book; still, I couldn't help but observe that his footnotes are
      generally positive when he quotes Wright and Sanders, and generally negative
      when he quotes yourself, Funk, Borg, and Patterson. So my first question
      is, after all you have written and after experiencing the apparently
      deliberate belittling of your work by some of your colleagues, what advice
      would you give those of us who find ourselves to be second- (or in my case,
      third-) string participants in the Jesus Wars?

      Second, what do you say to those who feel, as I think that Allison does,
      that when it comes to the study of the historical Jesus, the more or less
      standard methods of the secular historian can be ignored? As I have been
      reading Allison's book, I have wondered on what basis he can bypass the
      process of locating the textural tradition-units to points on an external
      timeline (a "secular" timeline, if you will). I can see that one could
      write a great deal about Jesus that way--that is, one could identify and
      restate the major themes of early Christian proclamation. I don't see how
      one could call that scholarship about a *historical* Jesus.

      Thank you again for being our teacher in this seminar.

      Gail Dawson
      Edinburg, Va.
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