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[HJMatMeth] Re: Presuppositions

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  • John Dominic Crossan
    Since you were at the special Jesus Seminar on The Once and Future Jesus, Davidson, you know not only what Tom Sheehan said, but what I said at that meeting.
    Message 1 of 3 , Feb 13, 2000
      Since you were at the special Jesus Seminar on "The Once and Future Jesus,"
      Davidson, you know not only what Tom Sheehan said, but what I said at that
      meeting. I proposed to my col-leagues, including Tom, that we should all get
      out of the 19th century and that the best way to enter the 21st was to get
      back to the 1st. I rejected then the extremes of 19th century rationalism,
      one of which (let me call it secularism) said that events like divine or
      virginal conceptions, miraculous cures and supernatural phenomena,
      resurrections and ascensions, were simply impossible and therefore never
      happened because they never could. The other extreme (let me call it
      fundamentalism) admitted that those things did not happen normally or
      regularly, but insisted that they all had happened once in the past to our
      Jesus. Impossibility, on the one hand, fought with uniqueness, on the other.
      I claimed that both those positions were absolutely impossible in the first
      centuries of the common era. They were not, in other words, ancient options,
      but modern alternatives. Because of that, I do not find the disjunctive
      options you offer particularly helpful. They are actually unhistorical when
      applied to ancient times and until we get back to those ancient times, we
      will not understand what they took absolutely for granted culturally and
      socially (namely, that all those events could and did happen) and, only
      thereafter, understand the true alternatives that faced everybody involved
      (be they pro-or anti-Christian).




      ----------
      >From: DavidLoehr@...
      >To: hjmaterialsmethodolgy@egroups.com
      >Subject: [HJMatMeth] Presuppositions
      >Date: Sat, Feb 12, 2000, 3:31 PM
      >

      > Dom:
      >
      > Thank you for offering yourself to this discussion.
      >
      > My question comes from the left field where I roost. It has to do with the
      > (in my view) necessity that Jesus Seminar folks make their own faith stances
      > clear, their scientific/metaphysical presuppositions. Tom Sheehan reminded
      > us in October that this is one of the major features of Strauss' Life of
      > Jesus that's been missing in the Seminar.
      >
      > I'd suggest, as a minimum, that you/we make these two distinctions:
      >
      > 1. Difference between "Liberal" and "Literal" styles of religion, where we
      > are all identified within the first not the second, and assume, with Philo,
      > Origen et al that the key terms in religion are to be taken symbolically,
      > metaphorically, parabolically, rather than literally. Or: that we think the
      > literal reading is coherent only within a first century SCIENTIFIC worldview,
      > which nobody today shares.
      >
      > 2. Difference between "liberal" and "conservative/literal" SCHOLARSHIP.
      > When faced with a conflict between scholarship and the received/traditional
      > faith, liberal scholarship stays with the scholarship, no matter what it may
      > do to the faith, conservative/literal scholarship stays with the
      > received/tradition faith, even if they must ignore or bracket the
      > scholarship.
      >
      > Mind you, I'm not suggesting you duck questions like these. You've been
      > pretty clear. But we're talking, in part, about method, and I think that
      > part of our method needs to be clarifying our presuppositions, and
      > distinguishing between scholarship in the service of orthodoxy
      > (conservative/literal) and scholarship in the service of evolving
      > (unorthodox) truth.
      >
      > What do you think? If you agree, can you think of a clearer way to do
      > this? If you don't think this is important, why not?
      >
      > Davidson Loehr
      >
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    • Sukie Curtis
      Dear Dominic, In your response to Davidson Loehr, you wrote concerning events like divine or virginal conceptions, miraculous cures and supernatural
      Message 2 of 3 , Feb 13, 2000
        Dear Dominic,

        In your response to Davidson Loehr, you wrote concerning "events like divine
        or virginal conceptions, miraculous cures and supernatural phenomena,
        resurrections and ascensions," that for the first centuries of the common
        era the modern alternatives of "impossibility" vs. "uniqueness" were not
        "ancient options." Rather, you wrote,
        >They are actually unhistorical when
        > applied to ancient times and until we get back to those ancient times, we
        > will not understand what they took absolutely for granted culturally and
        > socially (namely, that all those events could and did happen) and, only
        > thereafter, understand the true alternatives that faced everybody involved
        > (be they pro-or anti-Christian).

        I take that to mean that those in the first centuries of the common era
        believed such events could and did actually, literally, physically happen,
        and could and did happen to pagans as well as Jews as well as Christians.

        You have also said and written that (forgive the paraphrase) at the
        Enlightenment we got dumb and took those first centuries stories (of such
        events) literally instead of metaphorically; that the ancients told powerful
        metaphorical stories, and we (condescendingly) assumed they had meant them
        literally, which of course we were too smart to do!

        Is there some contradiction there, between asserting that the ancients
        believed such events could and did happen, and yet their stories of such
        events were metaphorical rather than literal? Or by "could and did happen,"
        do you mean they spoke and wrote AS IF such things could and did happen, but
        it was all understood and meant metaphorically and symbolically?


        Sukie Curtis
        Cumberland Foreside, Maine



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      • John Dominic Crossan
        Do the two texts which I quoted from Justin vs. Celsus explain my refusal to accept impossibility versus uniqueness, David, and does that answer your question?
        Message 3 of 3 , Feb 16, 2000
          Do the two texts which I quoted from Justin vs. Celsus explain my refusal to
          accept impossibility versus uniqueness, David, and does that answer your
          question? What I wanted to insist on is that, if we are to speak at all
          "about those people and those times," we should do so as accurately as we
          can. You have been wondering whether historical reconstruction is ethically
          driven. I should certainly hope that it is and the first part of such ethics
          is accuracy. Faced with the way those ancient peoples thought, and allowing
          them the same spectrum of literal-to-metaphorical speech about ultimates
          that we allow ourselves, we have one of two options. We may accept their
          world view (divine interventions happen quite often) and then we will have
          to decide that question of superiority they left us. We can reject their
          world view, as a whole, (divine interventions do not happen at all) but we
          are still left with the question that they raised but it now becomes what
          sort of models for fullest humanity do we have. It may be good to recall
          that, in their world, Michael Jordan would have been divine.

          ----------
          >From: David Amador <thevoidboy@...>
          >To: hjmaterialsmethodolgy@egroups.com
          >Subject: [HJMatMeth] Presuppositions
          >Date: Mon, Feb 14, 2000, 12:06 AM
          >

          > Dominic:
          >
          > I figured something out, at least one part of the conversation I was
          > posing. I think I
          > want to ask at least this one specific question (though there are so
          > many others I want
          > to ask, too):
          >
          > What about our discipline makes you say this:
          >
          > Impossibility, on the one hand, fought with uniqueness, on the other. I
          > claimed that both
          > those positions were absolutely impossible in the first centuries of the
          > common era. They
          > were not, in other words, ancient options, but modern alternatives.
          > Because of that, I do
          > not find the disjunctive
          > options you offer particularly helpful. They are actually unhistorical
          > when applied to
          > ancient times and until we get back to those ancient times, we will not
          > understand what
          > they took absolutely for granted culturally and socially (namely, that
          > all those events
          > could and did happen) ***and, only
          > thereafter***, understand the true alternatives that faced everybody involved
          > (be they pro-or anti-Christian).
          >
          > "Helpful" to what end? More clearly(?): Why should we care about those
          > people and those
          > times? I don't mean that glibly, but am interested in seeing if a
          > certain vector of
          > disciplinary power can be uncovered by asking it. Of course a simple
          > answer would be:
          > because the texts came from that time. Which is useful to say, but I'm
          > wondering: how
          > does this become important? (note: I did not ask *why*, but *how*)
          >
          > -David
          >
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