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[HJMatMeth] Allison's Challenge

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  • J M Strijdom
    Dale Allison, in his Jesus of Nazareth (1998), offers an extensive criticism of Crossan s methodology. I would like to know Crossan s response to the
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 11, 2000
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      Dale Allison, in his "Jesus of Nazareth" (1998), offers an extensive criticism of Crossan's
      methodology. I would like to know Crossan's response to the following two points noted by

      (1) Why does Crossan draw the dividing lines between his strata at 60, 80, 120 and 150 CE?
      In Allison's words (1998:14): "Why are the lines drawn where they are? Why not a line at 50 or
      70 CE or one at 100 CE? Crossan may have good reasons for his choices, but he does not, as far
      as I can see, let us know what they are."

      (2) Crossan's method let him focus on complexes rather than ideas/themes with multiple
      independent attestation. Allison (1998:23) argues that the recurrent appearance of
      themes/ideas/motifs in independent sources should be taken much, much more seriously than
      Crossan's work does. In one case, he concedes, Crossan does break out of the limitations of his
      own methodology: to argue for a fundamental difference between the Baptist and Jesus, Crossan
      uses two complexes with single attestation (144 Wisdom Justified [1/1] and 106 Fasting and
      Wedding [1/2]) which nevertheless evince independent attestation of the same theme. But this procedure, Allison holds, should be given much more attention. What is Crossan's response to Allison's proposal?

      Johan Strijdom
      Department of Classics
      University of South Africa
      PO Box 392
      Pretoria 0003
      South Africa

      or: strijjm@...
    • Johan Strijdom
      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
      Message 2 of 2 , Feb 14, 2000
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        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

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