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[HJMatMeth] Re: Allison's Challenge

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  • John Dominic Crossan
    Sorry, Johan, if my comment about themes being more slippery than complexes, seemed in any way dismissive. I think, actually, there is a huge area of research
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 15, 2000
      Sorry, Johan, if my comment about themes being more slippery than complexes,
      seemed in any way dismissive. I think, actually, there is a huge area of
      research possible if we can raise that issue and discuss it self-critically.
      I found complexes easier to establish because most people seemed to agree
      where the same unit came up in different sources, even if they disagreed
      completely on the genetic relationship between those sources. Themes will be
      much more difficult. Let me just, off the top of my head, imagine one taken
      from Jeff Peterson's question above. Imagine a theme called "the Davidic
      theme." I am trying to be deliberately vague and not say Davidic decent or
      Davidic relationship. Maybe we might agree that the theme had to bring Jesus
      into some kind of contact with David. Maybe even that the word "David" had
      to be there (would Bethlehem alone be adequate, etc.?) You could argue,
      accepting Jeff's mention of Paul's testimonia and the Bethlehem-birth common
      and therefore earlier than Matthew and Luke, that here we have an extremely
      early "theme" which is every bit as early and good as any of my complexes. I
      am all in favor of that, have just never thought of doing it, but recognize
      possible doctoral theses when I see them.
      All of that is very much in general, but is emphatically work to be done.
      You go on to mention two very important such themes. One is purity and the
      other is apocalypticism. I admit immediately to having a strong problem with
      Paula's book because I find myself caricatured badly in it. To say that I
      "misconstrue (im)purity by letting it correspond to social class and by
      viewing it as 'one of the ways elite culture imposed itself on peasant
      society'" is not very helpful. First, I have never thought or written that
      you could equate purity/impurity with aristocracy/peasantry. Is it in there
      somewhere and I have just forgotten it? Second, this is more ambiguous and
      is a point where I disagree with Marcus. I think that the aristocracy would
      have used purity, like they used every other element of the Great Tradition,
      in order to keep the peasantry in their ideological, symbolical, and
      material place. in the same way the peasantry would have used their Little
      Tradition to fight back (that's from James Scott). But I see absolutely no
      reason to particularly privilege aristocratic use of purity, as distinct
      from Law, History, Tradition, Bible or anything else you want to mention.
      What is desperately needed and would be very helpful, is if we could lay out
      in scholarship all the options of purity in the 1st century Jewish homeland.
      For example: Should we distinguish justice and purity, would justice be all
      those things that "eschalotogical Gentiles" (Paula's phrase from a much
      earlier article, with which I am in complete agreement) would still have to
      observe and would purity be all those things which they could ignore? Should
      we use purity as the overarching concept and simply divide it into (what
      terms dare I use without being accused of something awful?) moral and ritual
      elements? Let me put this bluntly. I have always found what Paula says about
      me to be rhetorically polemical rather than collegially accurate. And that
      only serves to obscure the work to be done in this area.
      This is getting so long, Johan, that I will abbreviate the next section
      because I think it will have to come up again. In reading Dale Allison's
      book, as distinct from Paula's, I found it to be much more accurate in
      laying out my own position and opposing it completely. In conversation,
      eventually to be published with Dale, I have already begun to try and think
      out what distinctions we need to make within apocalypticism rather than
      simply arguing apocalypticism vs non-apocalypticism with each side avoiding
      definitions and distinctions. Just as an example, to conclude by bringing
      Paula and Dale together, this question. If you accept, as I do, Paula's
      distinction of apocalyptic consummation for the Gentile nation involving
      either a "negative" extermination OR a "positive" conversion to the God of
      Israel, but not to Israel's ethnic purity rules, and, if you use that as
      Paula does, and I agree, to understand why Gentiles are immediately accepted
      into full fellowship in Jewish Christian communities, you will have to add
      to her distinction between "negative" and "positive" apocalypticism another
      one between active and passive apocalypticism. By passive I mean praying,
      hoping, waiting, living perfectly in expectation of apocalyptic con
      summation. By active I mean exactly what somebody like Paul was doing, going
      out there, travelling far and wide, and hustling for Gentile converts.
      Surely somebody must have said to him, we should stay here at prayer in
      Jerusalem and wait for God to do it (maybe the "false brethren"?) That
      simply begins a process in which I am fairly deeply involved, in dialogue
      with Dale, to set up a series of distinctions within the general "theme" of
      apocalypticism necessary, as I see it, to explain what those early Christian
      Jewish communities were actually doing. Let me stop it here for now, but
      this is also very much to be continued.

      >From: "Johan Strijdom" <strijjm@...>
      >To: hjmaterialsmethodolgy@...
      >Subject: [HJMatMeth] Allison's Challenge
      >Date: Mon, Feb 14, 2000, 12:12 AM

      > Dear Dominic,
      > To David Amador you wrote: 'the merits of any method/ology is comparative.'
      > And in response to my question, you said: 'I have no problem with extending
      > my focus on complexes to ideas.' But you qualified your willingness by
      > noting that themes 'are slightly more slippery than complexes and demand
      > even more fine tuning for useful purposes.'
      > My question now focuses on that 'fine tuning' of themes, but it is not
      > restricted to the micro-level of Christian texts. It rather deals with the
      > 'reciprocal' interaction between your micro-, meso-, and macro-levels.
      > It is clear to me that any comparison of words, texts or contexts should
      > attend to both similarities and differences (as Jonathan Z Smith makes quite
      > clear in his 'Drudgery Divine' 1990). My problem, however, is more
      > specific: How does one decide on the CATEGORIES or POINTS OF COMPARISON,
      > when one compares texts and contexts, themes and ideas? I will try to
      > elucidate my problem by means of two examples:
      > (1) Purity Concerns: Paula Fredriksen, in her 'Jesus of Nazareth' (1999),
      > thinks that you (and Marcus Borg) misconstrue (im)purity by letting it
      > correspond to social class and by viewing it as 'one of the ways elite
      > culture imposed itself on peasant society' (p 284; cf also p 201). Instead,
      > she holds, 'impurity and purity were states that one moved in and out of,
      > [which] could [therefore] hardly serve to stratify society along class
      > lines. ... The lowliest peasant who had just completed the ritual of the red
      > heifer was pure, the most aristocratic chief priest, having just buried a
      > parent, was not' (p 201).
      > How will you go about (ie, what method will you follow) to 'fine tune' a
      > theme like 'purity'? Which CATEGORIES will you use, and, more specifically,
      > how will you go about to decide on these ones rather than those ones? Would
      > you consider the modern explanatory category of boundary markers (we versus
      > they), the socially relevant categories of class, gender and ethnicity, the
      > postmodern concerns for body and spirit ('sarcophilic' versus
      > 'sarcophobic'), the reformers' distinction between ritual purity and moral
      > purity (which Fredriksen maintains are 'modern' distinctions and can
      > therefore not be projected anachronistically onto ancient phenomena)? Or
      > should one rather try to find some categories that are inductively inferred
      > by a
      > comparative reading of the ancient evidence (the emic approach, which
      > Fredriksen will endorse as an exercise in 'concrete thinking')? Or would you
      > argue that both ways should be followed 'interactively' (ie, the relevance
      > of modern theories and categories should be tested in the light of ancient
      > data, and our reading of the ancient materials should 'simultaneously' and
      > 'equally', or 'hierarchically', be scrutinized for issues that are raised by
      > modern theories?)
      > (2) Apocalyptic Mentalities and Movements: When you compare apocalyptic
      > mentalities/movements in Second Temple Judaisms, you do it in 'The
      > Historical Jesus' in terms of upper- and lower class on one axis, and of
      > violence and non-violence on the other axis. Why do you choose those
      > categories as the primary ones, rather than some other ones? Allison, for
      > example, underlines the importance of the restoration of Israel, and
      > Fredriksen the importance of the conversion of the Gentiles in the thinking
      > of many of these apocalyptic groups. Although you say that you start with
      > context, and only then move to text (Birth of Christianity, p 147), it seems
      > to me that your eventual conclusions on the micro-level already influence
      > what you include in your description on the meso-level: you do not think the
      > restoration of Israel or the conversion of the Gentiles are important for an
      > understanding of the Baptist or Jesus, and therefore they do not deserve a
      > prominent place in your 'sharpest possible reconstruction of the 20s in
      > Lower Galilee'(Birth of Christianity, p 148).
      > To restate my question then: What exactly dictates your choice of POINTS OF
      > COMPARISON? Why do you choose some categories, and ignore others?
      > Best regards,
      > Johan Strijdom
      > Department of Classics
      > University of South Africa
      > PO Box 392
      > Pretoria 0003
      > South Africa
      > strijjm@... OR
      > strijjm@...
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