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[HJMatMeth] Re: The Cynic Jesus

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  • Dawson, Gail
    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
    Message 1 of 5 , Mar 2, 2000
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      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.
    • John Dominic Crossan
      Thank you very much, Mark, for emphasizing what I see as the rather appalling ethics of the recent Jesus Wars. One of the hardest things for me, in such a
      Message 2 of 5 , Mar 3, 2000
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        Thank you very much, Mark, for emphasizing what I see as the rather
        appalling ethics of the recent Jesus Wars. One of the hardest things for me,
        in such a situation, is not to join in and be just as nasty as everyone else
        (Finnegans Wake: "For Erin boys, go brawl"). You ask "Why do people react in
        the way they do, so highly emotionally, over the idea of a Cynic Q or a
        Cynic Jesus? Or, more broadly, why are scholars allowing themselves to veto
        in the strongest terms anything they think does
        > not make Jesus "Jewish" (according to their definition) enough?" The first
        part of that question is one I have been thinking about a lot recently, but
        I am not sure if I have a decent answer. I have been deliberately using the
        term (even if anachronistic in the beginning) "Christian Judaism" to
        emphasize that it is simply one of the many options within its contemporary
        Judaism, alongside, say, Essene Judaism, Sadduccean Judaism, Pharisaic
        Judaism, etc., etc. On that analogy, I do not speak about Gentile
        Christianity, but about "Christian paganism." We are raising, therefore, a
        rather delicate subject of the interplay, for better or for worse, between
        Judaism and paganism in the development of Christianity. One of the purposes
        of the epilogue to BofC was to raise precisely the question of how "the
        Jewish God" had transferred from Christian Judaism to Christian paganism.
        What exactly was lost and gained in that transition? To take an example.
        When the Sabbath moves from Saturday to Sunday, is that simply a minor
        change in observance even if it is intended to mark off one sect from
        another. When, however, I read what Torah has to say about Sabbath in Exodus
        23:12 or Deuteronomy 5:12-15 (note: "your ox or your donkey/or any of your
        livestock") I see a difference between rest-as-worship and rest-for-worship.
        It seems to me we have unfinished business, in both directions on the
        borders of Christian Judaism and Christian paganism (long ago and till now).
        Maybe, then, even raising the question of pagan influence gets some people
        very nervous.
        Your second question is also very important. "Nevertheless, some scholarship
        seems now to be beginning to caricature the real advances that have been
        made, somehow implying complicity with the holocaust for anyone that does
        not meet one's own particular agenda. If this is where Jesus scholarship is
        now going, do you agree that it would be better to leave it behind and go on
        to other things?" You will have to allow me a fairly personal response to
        that question. If I were operating only within the realm of scholarship, I
        would tend to find most of my time in working on the historical Jesus
        completely wasted. (That, of course, is not because of disagreement, which I
        enjoy because it makes life interesting but because of sloppy summaries,
        silly dismissals, and calculated misunderstandings.) However, in the last
        decade, and drawn by forces and processes that I neither created nor
        controlled, I have found myself doing far more work on what I would call
        public education. I do not know the situation in your own country, Mark, and
        I am speaking now primarily out of experience in North America and
        English-speaking Canada. I often speak at colleges, seminaries, or
        universities, but there is nothing particularly new about that. What is new
        is the number of educated lay people who find that historical Jesus research
        opens up all sorts of questions about history, about faith, and especially
        about the intersection between them. I know of these people, not only from
        letters and e-mails, but from invitations to speak at parishes. What makes
        me "optimistic" is that more and more of such talks involve a full weekend,
        from a Saturday-night opening lecture through an all-day seminar on Saturday
        into an adult-education class and sermon on Sunday. It is not uncommon to
        have between 100/200 people signed up for such seminars and to find that
        many of them have done study-group work on the books beforehand. Right now,
        for example, a huge downtown Orlando church, First Methodist, has a lay
        person with a master's degree in history running a 30-week course (closed
        and filled at 25) on BofC. One of the reasons I took early retirement at 61
        in 1995 was because such public education was making more and more demands
        on my time and I could not balance it along with undergraduate teaching and
        scholarly research. Since I did not want to give up the latter, I gave up
        the former. It is the experience with those lay people that makes me
        "optimistic" and that I would cite as a warning to my colleagues. Those
        people recognize immediately when they are faced with a dirty argument, and
        they are not impressed. One example. Tom Wright gave one such weekend
        seminar and about a month later so did I. Driving me to the airport, a woman
        who had been part of the steering committee for the double-but-separate
        seminar asked me this (fairly verbatim): "Why does Tom have to mention you
        all the time, even in a sermon, but you never mention him unless you are
        asked? We did not want him on you or you on him. We wanted to hear his views
        from him, yours from you, and make up our own minds. Because, then, of those
        recent experiences, I find "the long term prospects" extremely hopeful (at
        least here).

        ----------
        >From: "Mark Goodacre" <M.S.Goodacre@...>
        >To: hjmaterialsmethodolgy@egroups.com
        >Subject: [HJMatMeth] Re: The Cynic Jesus
        >Date: Thu, Mar 2, 2000, 5:14 PM
        >

        > On 2 Mar 00, at 12:12, John Dominic Crossan wrote:
        >
        >> Fourth, something
        >> very strange happened, however, in the general discussion of Cynicism and
        >> Jesus/Q. We began to hear that those who advocated a Cynic connection were
        >> denying the Jewishness of Jesus. I found that argument, and still find it,
        >> dirty, in the most basic sense of the word. 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. If Jesus were deliberately and knowingly "Cynical," he would not, by
        >> that fact, have been any less firmly Jewish. I reject the current game of:
        >> my Jesus is more Jewish than your Jesus!
        >
        > Thanks for these interesting thoughts, which I find refreshing -- even
        > liberating. You said something resembling the last sentence, if I
        > remember correctly, at the Historical Jesus section at the SBL in
        > Boston. Something like a cheer went up. To me it contrasted
        > starkly with almost the exact opposite the previous day in the Q
        > section, when a leading scholar criticized Kloppenborg for not
        > knowing better than to recreate a non-Jewish Q in this "blood
        > stained century". I thought the comments appalling and clearly
        > many others present thought the same. This is just to ask, briefly,
        > what you think might be going on here. Why do people react in the
        > way they do, so highly emotionally, over the idea of a Cynic Q or a
        > Cynic Jesus? Or, more broadly, why are scholars allowing
        > themselves to veto in the strongest terms anything they think does
        > not make Jesus "Jewish" (according to their definition) enough?
        >
        > I think one of the most important advances in Jesus research over
        > the last thirty years has been the rediscovery of Jesus the Jew
        > (witness the shock that the very title of Vermes's book caused in
        > 1973), and especially the work of Ed Sanders in showing how
        > seriously distorted by anti-Judaism so much 20th C. scholarship
        > on the NT has been. Nevertheless, some scholarship seems now
        > to be beginning to caricature the real advances that have been
        > made, somehow implying complicity with the holocaust for anyone
        > that does not meet one's own particular agenda. If this is where
        > Jesus scholarship is now going, do you agree that it would be
        > better to leave it behind and go on to other things? Or do you
        > remain optimistic that this is but a temporary problem? Are the
        > long term prospects for Historical Jesus scholarship good?
        >
        > So many thanks for your gracious, thoughtful and always
        > stimulating posts in this seminar. I have looked forward to the
        > posts each day and will miss them very much come the weekend!
        >
        > 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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      • John Dominic Crossan
        As it turns out, Gail, I am reading your post after responding to Mark s. May I presume, therefore, what I said to Mark as background for my response to you.
        Message 3 of 5 , Mar 3, 2000
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          Re: [HJMatMeth] Re: The Cynic Jesus As it turns out, Gail, I am reading your post after responding to Mark's. May I presume, therefore, what I said to Mark as background for my response to you. My own understanding of why the Jesus Wars have turned so bitter is that a basic rule of past scholarship has been deliberately abrogated. We, in the Jesus Seminar, agreed on one essential point over and above, of course, the necessity of doing historical criticism as self-consciously and self-critically as possible. Bob Funk argued and we agreed that there was an ethical necessity to do our scholarship in public and to get it out to the widest possible audience. That, and that alone, seems to me the only thing that is new in the last 15 years. Imagine that Bob had suggested (as he actually had before he withdrew from the SBL) the running of a five-year SBL Jesus Seminar akin, say to the earlier five-year SBL Parables Seminar. If all of the recent discussion had stayed within the parameters of such research and publication, the language would almost certainly have stayed both accurate and civil, But, by going public, everyone from ministers to scholars, were forced, willy-nilly, to discuss historical questions which had immediate implications for faith even if those immediate implications were not raised by the scholars. They would be raised, quite rightly and quite immediately, by the laity. Instead of being able to say, with some condescension, that popular works would explain whatever was agreed on by scholars whenever that blessed day would dawn, interested lay persons were being invited to come in on the cutting edge of the discussion and to participate as fully as they could in its on-going developments. The only "advice" I can give you is to understand that background, to apply the usual criteria to discriminate between academic discourse and political discourse and, when you find yourself in the midst of arguments that are only political, recognize the nervousness of an opponent's position by the nastiness of its rhetoric. By the way, since you mention Luke Timothy Johnson, and since I always like to compliment my colleagues, the finest article on the rhetoric of character assassination in the ancient world was Luke's article on "The New Testament's Anti-Jewish Slander and the Conventions of Ancient Polemic," in the Journal of Biblical Literature 108 (1989) 419-441.
          Your second question is "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?" Actually, the fact that you can ask that question tells me that you probably did not need the "advice" I just gave you. You have already noticed that many of the most recent historical Jesus books totally ignore what I would call textual stratigraphy. That procedure might produce a Q Jesus, or a synoptic Jesus, or a canonical Jesus, but it will not produce an historical Jesus. Once we know (innocence lost!) what happens between Mark and John in the 70s-90s when we are dealing with written texts, I cannot see that we can presume more accurate processes when we are dealing with oral traditions and hypothetical sources in the 30s-70s. Once again, however, it is the educated laity that now know too much (happily) to accept such procedures. I mentioned, in my post to Mark, the widespread enthusiasm I found among laity for historical Jesus research and all its implications for faith. I also found a certain anger that came out in expressions like this: You mean you guys always knew that Mark was copied by Matthew and Luke and you never told us?


          ----------
          >From: "Dawson, Gail" <gail.dawson@...>
          >To: hjmaterialsmethodolgy@egroups.com
          >Subject: [HJMatMeth] Re: The Cynic Jesus
          >Date: Thu, Mar 2, 2000, 8:56 PM
          >

          > 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.
          >
          >
          >
          > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
          > To Post a message, send it to:   hjmaterialsmethodolgy@...
          > To Unsubscribe, send a blank message to:
          > hjmaterialsmethodolgy-unsubscribe@...
          >
          > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
          > Planning a party? iParty.com is your complete source for party planning and
          > supplies, with everything you need to throw the perfect party!
          > http://click.egroups.com/1/1635/4/_/295551/_/952052913/
          >
          >
          > eGroups.com home: http://www.egroups.com/group/hjmaterialsmethodolgy
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          >
          >
          >
          >
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