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[HJMatMeth] Re: Methodological prerequisites

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  • John Dominic Crossan
    Let me begin with an analogy, Robert. Without anyone particularly noticing or making much fuss about it, we [ both scholars as such and Christians as such]
    Message 1 of 5 , Feb 12, 2000
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      Let me begin with an analogy, Robert. Without anyone particularly noticing
      or making much fuss about it, we [ both scholars as such and Christians as
      such] have decided that the Greek texts of the New Testament must not be
      taken directly from some extant manuscript (like the Alexandrinus,
      Vaticanus, or Sinaiticus), but be reconstructed by a committee which votes
      on levels of certitude (a horrifying habit copied by the Jesus Seminar).
      That means for scholars as such, and indeed most Christians as such, the
      Biblical text is reconstructed subject to the vagaries of history and the
      chance discoveries of Egyptian aridity. If you ask me is that safe, I can
      only say that it is inevitable. I do not know how to avoid the ifs, buts,
      and maybes of historical reconstruction. Unless, of course, you wish to
      avoid history completely and assert dogma: This text is the way it is
      yesterday, today, and forever. If I turn to the historical Jesus, I do not
      know how to avoid similar decisions if we are doing history and not
      asserting dogma. Once we have learned that Matthew and Luke copied Mark, I
      do not know however to go back and avoid the implications of such knowledge.
      As you mentioned, Tom Wright has said that one should and that he would
      "bypass" the historical presuppositions of the various methods established
      in the last 200 years of scholarship. That method would be perfectly right
      if one was studying Paul where, for example, nobody thinks that Romans has a
      three-level stratigraphy of materials from Paul himself, from the tradition
      after Paul, and from the final author of Romans. If the Gospels were like
      the Pauline Epistles, I would act exactly the same way that Tom does, If I
      thought they were four independent witnesses to the Jesus tradition, I would
      have, perforce, to work out a synthetic correlation just as Tom does. And in
      the end, the synoptic Jesus or the four-gospel Jesus, or the New Testament
      Jesus would be simply equated with the historical Jesus. 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.

      ----------
      >From: Robert M Schacht <bobschacht@...>
      >To: hjmaterialsmethodolgy@...
      >Subject: [HJMatMeth] Methodological prerequisites
      >Date: Fri, Feb 11, 2000, 5:23 PM
      >

      > Professor Crossan,
      > First, thank you very much for agreeing to participate in this Seminar. I
      > am looking forward to the dialogue on historical methods concerning the
      > reconstruction of the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth that will
      > result.
      >
      > My question has to do with methodological prerequisites. As you make
      > clear in The Birth of Christianity, you think that it is imperative that
      > our methods be based on the four Criticisms (source-, redaction-, form-,
      > & tradition-)(p.96f). However, Tom Wright has criticised this approach,
      > saying that it has lead only to divergent interpretations, and no
      > consensus.
      > Each of the criticisms has its own problems. For example, there are
      > competing source-critical models, each with its own problems and
      > advantages. Instead, he wants to try a different approach.
      >
      > Do you think that by committing ourselves to the particular scholarly
      > paradigm you have advocated that we run a risk similar to the
      > pre-Copernican astronomers who insisted that in order to navigate, one
      > must first understand the system of epicycles, and then build on that? (I
      > am of course referring to Thomas Kuhn's theory of paradigm shifts.)
      > I am not trying to be tendentious here; obviously the problem with the
      > system of epicycles is that one of the fundamental assumptions (that the
      > universe revolved around the earth) was wrong. I am not suggesting that
      > the Four Criticisms are as flagrantly defective in their assumptions. But
      > yet, some of their assumptions could be defective in less dramatic ways.
      > I am not suggesting that we should abandon the Four Criticisms, but only
      > that perhaps they should not all be regarded as mandatory methodological
      > prerequisites?
      >
      > Best regards,
      > Bob
      >
      > Robert M. Schacht, Ph.D.
      > Northern Arizona University
      > Flagstaff, AZ
      >
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    • Mark Goodacre
      ... Thankyou for these interesting observations, here excerpted from your longer message. I would like to make two observations. First, the point about Tom
      Message 2 of 5 , Feb 12, 2000
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        Prof. Crossan wrote:

        > That method would be perfectly right
        > if one was studying Paul where, for example, nobody thinks that Romans
        > has a three-level stratigraphy of materials from Paul himself, from
        > the tradition after Paul, and from the final author of Romans. If the
        > Gospels were like the Pauline Epistles, I would act exactly the same
        > way that Tom does, If I thought they were four independent witnesses
        > to the Jesus tradition, I would have, perforce, to work out a
        > synthetic correlation just as Tom does. And in the end, the synoptic
        > Jesus or the four-gospel Jesus, or the New Testament Jesus would be
        > simply equated with the historical Jesus.

        Thankyou for these interesting observations, here excerpted from
        your longer message. I would like to make two observations.
        First, the point about Tom Wright (for whom I nevertheless have the
        greatest respect and admiration) is astute. It occurred to me when
        reading his _Jesus and the Victory of God_ that his procedure for
        the Jesus tradition does not substantially differ from his treatment
        of the epistles of Paul. And this in turn confirmed an observation
        when he lectured. He was simultaneously lecturing in Oxford,
        when I was an undergraduate, on the epistle to the Galatians and
        on the Synoptic Gospels and I could not help thinking that the
        difference between his approaches to each was not substantial --
        the attempt to find a controlling motif and run with it. And of course
        he did begin his academic studies as a scholar of Paul.

        Second, I wonder about your comment that "in the end, the
        synoptic Jesus or the four-gospel Jesus, or the New Testament
        Jesus would be simply equated with the historical Jesus". Would
        it? Isn't one of the points of your preface in _The Historical Jesus_
        that the primary Jesus material you have isolated is a score to be
        played etc. and that there are many possible performances? And if
        it is true that the work really begins *after* isolating the earliest,
        best attested material, surely the same would apply all the more if
        one were simply to take in all the Synoptic material as Tom does?
        i.e. one person's historical Jesus taking for granted all the
        Synoptics would be quite different from another person's historical
        Jesus taking for granted on all the Synoptics.

        Mark
        ---------------------------
        Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
        Dept of Theology
        University of Birmingham Fax.: +44 (0)121 414 6866
        Birmingham B15 2TT Tel.: +44 (0)121 414 7512

        http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
        All-in-One Biblical Resources Search
        New Testament Gateway
        Mark Without Q
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      • John Dominic Crossan
        Thank you, Mark, for your experiences as a student with Tom Wright. I expect that bio-scholarly differences are probably operative between somebody like Tom
        Message 3 of 5 , Feb 13, 2000
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          Thank you, Mark, for your experiences as a student with Tom Wright. I expect
          that bio-scholarly differences are probably operative between somebody like
          Tom who started with Paul and somebody like myself who started with Jesus.
          With regard to your question about a plurality of synoptic Jesuses, my
          answer would be: yes, of course. But my point still stands. If you are
          reconstructing the historical Jesus, you may well end up with different
          Jesuses (I have no problem with that, by the way, and expect it to happen).
          But if we agreed, for example, that we are trying to do synthetic
          reconstructions of a synoptic Jesus, or of a four-gospel Jesus or of a New
          Testament Jesus, the diverse results would be precisely of those types of
          Jesus. We would still, from my point of view, not be talking of the
          historical Jesus unless, of course, we took it for granted as a
          presupposition, that any synoptic Jesus (or canonical or credal one) would
          be the same as the historical Jesus. I hope that¹s clearer.

          ----------
          >From: "Mark Goodacre" <M.S.Goodacre@...>
          >To: hjmaterialsmethodolgy@egroups.com
          >Subject: [HJMatMeth] Re: Methodological prerequisites
          >Date: Sat, Feb 12, 2000, 4:51 PM
          >

          > Prof. Crossan wrote:
          >
          >> That method would be perfectly right
          >> if one was studying Paul where, for example, nobody thinks that Romans
          >> has a three-level stratigraphy of materials from Paul himself, from
          >> the tradition after Paul, and from the final author of Romans. If the
          >> Gospels were like the Pauline Epistles, I would act exactly the same
          >> way that Tom does, If I thought they were four independent witnesses
          >> to the Jesus tradition, I would have, perforce, to work out a
          >> synthetic correlation just as Tom does. And in the end, the synoptic
          >> Jesus or the four-gospel Jesus, or the New Testament Jesus would be
          >> simply equated with the historical Jesus.
          >
          > Thankyou for these interesting observations, here excerpted from
          > your longer message. I would like to make two observations.
          > First, the point about Tom Wright (for whom I nevertheless have the
          > greatest respect and admiration) is astute. It occurred to me when
          > reading his _Jesus and the Victory of God_ that his procedure for
          > the Jesus tradition does not substantially differ from his treatment
          > of the epistles of Paul. And this in turn confirmed an observation
          > when he lectured. He was simultaneously lecturing in Oxford,
          > when I was an undergraduate, on the epistle to the Galatians and
          > on the Synoptic Gospels and I could not help thinking that the
          > difference between his approaches to each was not substantial --
          > the attempt to find a controlling motif and run with it. And of course
          > he did begin his academic studies as a scholar of Paul.
          >
          > Second, I wonder about your comment that "in the end, the
          > synoptic Jesus or the four-gospel Jesus, or the New Testament
          > Jesus would be simply equated with the historical Jesus". Would
          > it? Isn't one of the points of your preface in _The Historical Jesus_
          > that the primary Jesus material you have isolated is a score to be
          > played etc. and that there are many possible performances? And if
          > it is true that the work really begins *after* isolating the earliest,
          > best attested material, surely the same would apply all the more if
          > one were simply to take in all the Synoptic material as Tom does?
          > i.e. one person's historical Jesus taking for granted all the
          > Synoptics would be quite different from another person's historical
          > Jesus taking for granted on all the Synoptics.
          >
          > Mark
          > ---------------------------
          > Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
          > Dept of Theology
          > University of Birmingham Fax.: +44 (0)121 414 6866
          > Birmingham B15 2TT Tel.: +44 (0)121 414 7512
          >
          > http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/goodacre
          > All-in-One Biblical Resources Search
          > New Testament Gateway
          > Mark Without Q
          > Aseneth Home Page
          >
          > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
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          > To Unsubscribe, send a blank message to:
          > hjmaterialsmethodolgy-unsubscribe@...
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        • Antonio Jerez
          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
          Message 4 of 5 , Feb 27, 2000
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            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
          • 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 5 of 5 , Feb 28, 2000
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              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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