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[HJMatMeth] Re: "Potential fatal flaw" in the BofC method?

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  • John Dominic Crossan
    If I understand what Earl Doherty is arguing, Neil, it is that Jesus of Nazareth never existed as an historical person, or, at least that historians, like
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 28, 2000
      If I understand what Earl Doherty is arguing, Neil, it is that Jesus of
      Nazareth never existed as an historical person, or, at least that
      historians, like myself, presume that he did and act on that fatally flawed
      I am not sure, as I said earlier, that one can persuade somebody that Jesus
      did not exist as long as they are ready to explain the entire phenomenon of
      historical Jesus and earliest Christianity either as an evil trick or a holy
      parable. I had a friend in Ireland who did not believe that Americans had
      landed on the moon but that they had created the entire thing to bolster
      their cold war image against the communists. I got nowhere with him. So I am
      not at all certain that I can prove that the historical Jesus existed
      against such an hypothesis and probably, to be honest, I am not even
      interested in trying.
      It was, however, that hypothesis taken not as a settled conclusion, but as a
      simple question that was behind the first pages of BofC when I mentioned
      Josephus and Tacitus. I do not think that either of them checked out Jewish
      or Roman archival materials about Jesus. I think they were expressing the
      general public knowledge that "everyone" had about this weird group called
      Christians and their weird founder called Christ. The existence, not just of
      Christian materials, but of those other non-Christian sources, is enough to
      convince me that we are dealing with an historical individual. Furthermore,
      in all the many ways that opponents criticized earliest Christianity, nobody
      ever suggested that it was all made up. That in general, is quite enough for
      There was one other point where I think Earl Doherty simply misstated what I
      did. In BofC, after the initial sections on materials and methods (1-235), I
      spent about equal time in Galilee (237-406) , or at least to the north, and
      in Jerusalem with prePauline materials (407-573). I agree that if we had a
      totally different and irreconcilable vision/program between Paul and Q (just
      to take an example), it would require some very good explaining. Part of
      what I was doing, for example, in talking about the Common Meal Tradition
      was showing how even such utterly distinct eucharistic scenarios as Didache
      9-10 and I Cor 11-12 have rather fascinating common elements behind and
      between them. It is a very different thing, in summary, for Paul to say that
      he is not interested in the historical Jesus (Jesus in the flesh) than to
      say that "no Galilee and no historical Jesus lie behind Paul."

      >From: Neil Godfrey <Neil.Godfrey@...>
      >To: hjmaterialsmethodolgy@egroups.com
      >Subject: [HJMatMeth] "Potential fatal flaw" in the BofC method?
      >Date: Sun, Feb 27, 2000, 11:01 PM

      > Professor Crossan,
      > Thank you for your elaboration and clarification of the spetra/map of
      > options comment.
      > Your earlier comment on the implications of a "parobolic Jesus" reminded me
      > of an in-depth review of BofC by an author who does indeed argue that Jesus
      > was “parabolic”. With amazon sales of his book reaching 27,000 within weeks
      > of its release (and with several reviews suggesting a well-educated
      > audience) I was wondering if you would mind replying to one section of his
      > review of your book which I reproduce below. (The reviewer had just
      > commented how "very little 'flesh and blood' sense of [Jesus] comes across"
      > through the descriptions of him by scholars like Meier and yourself.) ......
      > "Thus Crossan has arrived at his methodological juncture of Text and
      > Context, and he now proceeds to open up the Q Gospel and the Gospel of
      > Thomas to reveal the mind and program of the historical Jesus in the
      > Galilean phase of his career. But there is a potential fatal flaw in the
      > method, since it passes by and ignores a more fundamental question. If there
      > was an historical Jesus, then the earliest layer of the texts under
      > consideration would logically be closest to that figure, and if this
      > coincides with the established context, then there is a high likelihood that
      > we would indeed have uncovered the "authentic" Jesus. But if there was in
      > fact no Jesus of Nazareth, and it is possible to view the earliest layers of
      > those texts in a different light-a ground zero which is empty of such a
      > figure and precedes the development of an artificial historical Jesus-then
      > these bedrock layers of text could still coincide with the context Crossan
      > has laid out if they can be seen as residing in Galilee.
      > "Thus what we would arrive at is not an historical Jesus, but a broad
      > movement which did not owe its source and wellspring to the force of one
      > man-(or there may have been some influential individuals involved whose
      > names have not survived)-a movement for which an artificial Jesus figure was
      > later developed to represent or symbolize. A saying or anecdote attributed
      > to Jesus may fit Crossan's context, but it may equally well be a saying or
      > anecdote which belonged to the teachings or experiences of a community, a
      > reform/resistance movement, a sect in conflict with the establishment, only
      > later to be placed in the mouth or at the feet of an invented Jesus. How can
      > we tell whether "Ask and you will receive, seek and you will find," was
      > spoken by a Jesus or simply by a Kingdom group's spokespersons? And are
      > there in fact indications within the evidence itself, backed up by deductive
      > reasoning we can bring to that evidence, which point in the latter
      > direction?
      > "To this unaddressed and unproven assumption by Crossan and others, that
      > there was an historical Jesus, we must add a glaring omission: the failure
      > to seek and find corroboration for the Galilean picture of Jesus within the
      > earliest extant record, namely the epistles. These documents, of course,
      > belong to that other non-identical Twin which by definition had nothing to
      > do with its sibling, much less bear any resemblance to it. But can that
      > dismissal be so cavalierly made? The second Twin, with its epistolary texts,
      > may not reside in the main "context" of Galilee, but it did presumably
      > emerge from the same womb, in reaction to the same historical figure. If we
      > cannot find any trace of that figure in Paul and the rest of the early
      > Christian correspondence, any trace of the same man as the wellspring of
      > Paul's faith, this would indicate that the earliest layers of the Q and
      > Thomas texts were something entirely unconnected with that faith, and that
      > the two Traditions only meet at the artificial intersection point created by
      > the evangelist Mark. In addition to all else, if no Galilee and no
      > historical Jesus lie behind Paul, it becomes much less likely that the
      > earliest layers of Crossan's texts refer to any such figure." ... Earl
      > Doherty.
      > The full review is at: <http://www.magi.com/~oblio/jesus/crossbr.htm>
      > Thank you very much,
      > Neil Godfrey
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