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[HJMatMeth] Re: Methodological prerequisites

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  • John Dominic Crossan
    If I am confronted, Antonio, with a tiny papyrus fragment, the most I might be able to say is that it is, from that limited data, hypothetically dependent or
    Message 1 of 5 , Feb 28, 2000
      Re: [HJMatMeth] Re: Methodological prerequisites If I am confronted, Antonio, with a tiny papyrus fragment, the most I might be able to say is that it is, from that limited data, hypothetically dependent or hypothetically independent. That would be the case with some of those tiny P Oxy fragments. I agree with you that lots of those tiny agrapha involve not much more than very hypothetical conclusions. I often wonder, however, why in those circumstances, one moves to hypothetically independent or hypothetically dependent.  Let me take an example of GHeb. Granted for the moment that it is independent of the canonical gospels, why does one date it in any decade of the first century or the second more than any other one? In some cases, precisely with GHeb, I intended to be slightly provocative. I see no reason for the late date that is usually assigned to it. On the other hand, we know about Christian scribes (do we really think Paul was the only literate Christian by the 50s?) writing by the middle of the first century. So I said to myself: Why not there, why not then? The same question just arose in an earlier posting on the Didache. Why the 90s or the 100s rather than the 50s?
      Nevertheless, and whatever about those datings, (which seem to get everyone unduly excited) the crucial historical presuppositions about sources are those given in BofC. Nothing of any importance that I can remember depends on tiny fragments, but on larger remnants such as Q, Thomas (actually complete), and Gospel of Peter. You're impressed with John Meier's mantra more than I am. Everyone seemed much happier with Q as long as it was simply a drawer in which to keep materials. Once it started to take on a life of its own, it began to receive much more opposition even from those who are using it. I presume, however, that you noticed my use of Q is not in terms of its compositional layers, but in terms of its traditional layers.
      With regard to your final question, I did not find John Meier's source-critical arguments for the Twelve as compelling as he did. There seems to me to be certain "big" traditional items that I find in one major stream of tradition, but not in the other. For example, the Last Supper, body-and-blood Eucharist and the Twelve in Paul and Mark, but not in Q and the Didache. On the other hand, the Our Father is in Q and the Didache, but not in Paul and Mark. I think all of those elements are very early, but not universal and I am not, therefore, convinced they go back to the historical Jesus.  But, for the sake of argument, let me concede that Jesus did have a group called the Twelve. That would certainly indicate a major restorative and/or eschatological program. But I have always held that Jesus was eschatological. Always, for thirty years of publication, in and since In Parables). What I keep asking for is "content"--among all the eschatological and/or apocalyptic programs of first-century Judaism, where exactly do you fit Jesus & Co.? (Later, for example, Josephus accepted a realized eschatological-apocalyptic-messianic consummation of Flavian ascendancy).
      As a footnote, I found one interesting element in John Meier's article although it may only be of Roman Catholic interest. He made a clear distinction, as Paul does, between the Twelve and the apostles. Even if we presume the Twelves were all male, maybe for no other reason that to emphasize the parallel with the twelve patriarchs, the apostles were not all male. Since Roman Catholicism has always held that the bishops were the heirs of the apostles, I wonder what that does to the argument for an all-male clergy?

      From: Antonio Jerez <antonio.jerez@...>
      To: hjmaterialsmethodolgy@egroups.com
      Subject: [HJMatMeth] Re: Methodological prerequisites
      Date: Sun, Feb 27, 2000, 3:08 PM

      Prof Crossan,
      on 12 February you replied to Bob Schacht:
      "My methodological
      challenge is not that everyone must agree with my presuppositions about the
      nature and relationship of the Gospels, but that nobody can avoid some such
      presuppositions in reconstructing the historical Jesus. Finally, I have
      countered Tom¹s suggestion that no classical historians work like gospel
      historians by this simple question. How would classical historians work if
      they learned that of the four biographies of Tiberius, Paterculus was
      written about 40 years after the Emperor¹s death, that Tacitus and Suetonius
      copied most of Paterculus, and that Dio Cassius used all of those three
      preceding sources. They would, I think, have to act exactly like gospel
      historians who are in a similar position."
      I think your counterargument to Tom Wright is well taken. I have noticed a
      tendency among "normal" historians of Antiquity ( one example being Robin
      Lane Fox in a book  like 'The Bible - the unauthorized version) of not really
      taking into consideration the kind of litterary relationships that exist between the
      gospels, not the least the "midrashic" character of the gospel stories and the way
      one gospel writer takes over and develops "midrash" from another gospel writer.
      This often lead to skewed portraits of the historical Jesus. A prime example is
      the question of the apocalyptic Son of Man "title" going back to the historical Jesus
      or not. Most "normal" historians do not notice that this is a theological construct of the
      early Church from beginning to end. In dealing with the Son of Man problem I think your
      methodology (multiple attestation + chronological strata) is very successfull and I
      agree with you 100% that the apocalyptic Son of Man sayings are unhistorical (although
      I differ from you in believing that ALL Son of Man sayings are probably unhistorical).
      This said I still have some misgivings about your chronological stratification of both
      the NT and the apocryphal material. The problem is that I believe that you sometimes
      go beyond what I would deem it is wise for a historian to ground his reconstructions
      on. My motto is caution when the textual material is either too small to really tell us much
      about the dating of a text or we are dealing with a hypothetical text (like Q) that we do
      not really know the total content of. In your appendix 1 to "The historical Jesus" you put
      among other things texts like Papyrus Vindobonesis Greek 2325, Papyrus Oxyrhynchus
      1224 and Gospel of the Hebrews in the first stratum (30-60 CE). But how can you be
      so confident about dating a text like Papyrus Oxyrhynchus on the basis of just a few
      verses that are available to us? And why put GHeb in the 50ies when all we have to
      decide the matter are seven small citatations from patristic sources? Even if historians
      like me would agree with you that these texts are independent of the canonical gospels
      (which I think is mostly a case of heavy guesswork due to the small textual material) I
      don't see how this would lead us to also dating these apocryphal texts so early. These
      gospels could theoretically be independent but still relatively late (2nd century) or dependent
      and relatively late (in the same way that GJohn very creatively refashions synoptic material).
      Be it as it may I still think the textual material is too scarce too conclude anything.
      As for Q I also have misgivings. I agree with John Meier that a Jesus scholar should almost
      make it into a mantra to start each morning with repeating the same saying; "don't forget
      that this is only a hypothetical document that we do not really know the full contours of or
      even its real existence...".  Besides, one thing is to reconstruct Q from the double tradition
      (the material only Matthew and Luke share) and compare this text and its theology with
      Mark's, Matthew's or the rest of the NT - another thing is to go a lot further and dissect
      a hypothetical document into further strata. I think the dissection of a hypothetical document
      and putting a lot of weight on it for a historical reconstruction is where most "normal"
      historians of Antiquity would say Stop.
      A sidequestion - do you still hold on to your claim that the instititution of the Twelve
      do not go back the historical Jesus? Have you published any counterarguments
      to John Meier's article in JBL? If so I would be interested to know where. Although
      I do agree with many of your findings (not the least about the apocalyptic Son of Man)
      I do not think your arguments about why we should discount Judas and the Twelve are
      are among your better ones. Personally I would agree with Dale Allison that Jesus
      choice of Twelve says quite a lot about his worldview and the ideological matrix into
      which he does appear to fit - apocalyptic Judaism.
      P.S.  I enjoyed your debate with Mark Goodacre about Q. Your final words to
      Mark where "But, while I can readily understand the mind of Mt reading Mk,
      I cannot fathom the mind of Lk reading Mt.".  I do not expect to go into the
      details here but my own studies indicate that Luke did indeed use both GMark
      and GMatthew and that Luke treated both gospels with a certain logic (although
      that logic may seem illogical to many modern exegetes). The basic logic of Luke
      is pretty straightforward: "Where Mark and  Matthew agree about a thing I will
      rewrite the saying, displace it or remove it altogether. Nobody is going to
      accuse me of being a simple copycat...".
      Best wishes
      Antonio Jerez
      Goteborg, Sweden

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