[HJMatMeth] Seminar Protocols
- Dear HJM/M Subscriber,
I have been asked off list what, if any, protocols participants are expected to abide by. So before the Seminar officially begins, I'd like to take this opportunity to list them here.
1. Keep your contributions relevant to the List's focus. As has been noted in the recent announcement and Seminar Rules, this is the issue of how the particular materials used and the methods employed by Historical Jesus scholars bear upon the conclusions they come to in their reconstructions of the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth.
2. When arguing a point, adhere to standard scholarly methodologies for doing so. Exegesis should always be grounded in the historical critical method.
3. Contributors who are not professional scholars should note that the academic nature of HJM/M Seminar demands that exegesis and discussion of the meaning of any ancient text that is adduced as evidence for a given argument on issues or points under discussion must always be based on that text's original language and wording and not on a, or any particular, translation of that text.
Postings which attempt to make claims about the meaning or import of an
ancient text solely on the basis of a translation of that text are not acceptable
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- Professor Crossan,
Along with many others, I want to thank you for making yourself available
in an electronic format such as this! As a (fairly) well informed
non-academic, I consider it quite a privilege to have the opportunity to
interact with a scholar of your reputation.
Instead of asking a question, though, I would be pleased if you would
allow me to offer some observations about your use of cross-cultural
anthropology. I am sure I will learn something valuable from the manner
that you review and respond to them.
First, let me say that I reviewed two of the books from which you drew
epigraphs. I particularly enjoyed Gerhard E. Lenski (_Power and
Privilege_, 1984 ) who does a wonderful job of describing the
evolution of societies and their class structures, and John H. Kautsky
(_The Politics of Aristocratic Empires_, 1982) who provides a good
political analysis of agrarian societies he calls "traditional
aristocratic empires" and the effects of their commercialization into
modern states. These are both "keepers" and will definitely be added to my
However, in reading these books, it became evident to me that you have
been selectively reading them and adding your own interpretations into
your descriptions of their positions. I will only comment on parts of your
chapter 11, on Cross-Cultural Anthropology, in order to avoid too lengthy
of a post.
You adopt what you call the "Lenski-Kautsky model" of class, but define
social class according to G. E. M. de Ste. Croix ("Karl Marx and the
History of Classical Antiquity", Arethusha 8, 1975). I don't start to
notice dissonance until we reach pg 153 (Marked Social Inequality). There
you quote Lenski to establish your three distinctive features causing the
increase of social inequality when an agrarian society replaces an
advanced horticultural society (without specifically stating this, by the
Your quote that illustrates the mushrooming process of urbanization in
newly agrarian societies does not mention that Lenski elsewhere on the
same page of his book (199) indicated that these "fairly large" cities
were more often than not national capitals, with perhaps five hundred
thousand permanent residents at the very most, with the vast majority of
towns being much more modest in size.
In support of the feature of monetization, Lenski is quoted to the effect
that the introduction of money in agrarian societies offered aristocrats
the opportunity to use it to indebt and consequence exploit the peasants.
However, Lenski also says (again on the same page, 207) that "in the rural
areas especially, the use of money was an infrequent experience,
especially for peasants." In other words, while money lending could be
"highly rewarding", it appears also to have been the exception rather than
You also quote Lenski (pg 155) to the effect that "[t]he Peasant Class,
that vast majority of the population, was held "at, or close to, the
subsistence level" (271)", ignoring the fact that all his examples are
drawn from medieval Europe, China and Japan, and then add your comment "so
that their appropriated surplus could support elite conspicuous
consumption", which, while based on a passage elsewhere in Lenski's book,
seems inserted here to make a social-political point of your own.
Later, at pg 157 (Agrarian Commercialization), you begin to quote Kautsky
to the effect that ""ancient Athens and Rome ... are commercialized"
agrarian empires. (25 note 31)." However, if we read a tad more of note 31
this turns out to be an incorrect statement: "To be sure, the term
"traditional" has also been applied to empires existing up to the
emergence of modern states, like the Chinese, Russian, and Ottoman empires
into the nineteenth century ... not to mention ancient Athens and Rome --
all of which are commercialized and hence *modern* <emphasis mine>." This
suggests to me that you are letting yourself mix and match the technical
terms to your liking.
Then on pg 158 you emphasize that Kautsky represents aristocrats as living
off peasants surplus in a one sided manner with no reciprocity involved
for the Peasants. However, G. E. M. de Ste. Croix, who you earlier cited
approvingly for a definition of "class", published _The Class Struggle in
the Ancient Greek World_ in 1981, a year before Kautsky. De Ste. Croix,
who does a brilliant job of relating classes to socio-economic factors,
takes a far more lenient view of the exploitative relationship between
aristocrats and peasants than does Kautsky, yet you do not cite it in your
bibliography. I have to presume that you knew of this publication but
chose not to deal with it in your book. Why is de Ste. Croix so reliable
when he defines "class" but not so reliable when he defines economic
relationships between classes?
Later in page 158 you discuss (localized) peasant revolts as
characteristic of commercialization of agrarian empires (relying on
Kautsky, although you represent it as inherent in your Lenski-Kautsky
model) However, Lenski speaks only of "inconsistent status" individuals as
leaders of revolutions, and only on pp 88 & 409. This also ignores de Ste.
Croix who indicated that crushing levels of economic exploitation did not
characterize the Roman empire until the 4th century CE. Then (pg 166) you
ask a rhetorical question: "What if priests, prophets, scribes,
bureaucrats, or retainers, acting institutionally or charismatically,
instigate an *idealogical* revolution?" Presumably this is in replacement
of political revolution.
And so it appears to me that you have made use of statements, taken out of
context at times, from Lenski and Kautsky, have then given them your own
spin to emphasize the element of social dissatisfaction. Is all this
*really* necessary in order to support text-critical positions that
represent Jesus as vocalizing social critical aphorisms and philosophy?
My apologies if I too seem to have over-stated my case. This was not meant
as any sort of personal criticism of you, for whom I have the utmost
respect. My point is that if so many liberties appear to have been taken
in forming your model, the question must be asked whether the
presuppositions you have adopted justify your methodological focus, as you
say in Ch 7 of BOC.
Cleveland, Ohio, USA