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Re: [John_Lit] Facts, Events, (his)Story, and Discourse

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  • Paul Schmehl
    ... From: To: Sent: Tuesday, February 25, 2003 6:14 PM Subject: Re: [John_Lit] Facts, Events,
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 26, 2003
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      ----- Original Message -----
      From: <GustavSym@...>
      To: <johannine_literature@yahoogroups.com>
      Sent: Tuesday, February 25, 2003 6:14 PM
      Subject: Re: [John_Lit] Facts, Events, (his)Story, and Discourse
      >
      > The Lazarus material in the fourth Gospel must be understood within the
      play
      > between story and discouse, between event and its representation. As such,
      > this material is insoluble by history, however "objective" its adherents
      > profess it to be. History is, after all, a reading: interpretive,
      provisional
      > and speculative; it takes events and allows its practitioners to "supply
      the
      > rest."
      >
      I'm not sure anyone would dispute that all historical material is
      interpretive. However, I don't think the role of the historian is to
      *further* interpret it. I see historians as "reporters" if you will. Their
      job is to uncover as much information about a story as they can and report
      it to the rest of us. It is not to speculate about the origins of the story
      or its meaning. *That* is the job of philosophers and theologians.

      I think of historians as scientists, along the same lines as archeologists.
      They "dig up" the past and report what they find. There is certainly room
      (and a requirement) for some speculation because they simply can't know
      everything about a site or period of time after digging, but that room for
      speculation is not as great as the theologian's. We wouldn't, for example,
      think much of an archeologist who, after digging at a site, postulated
      something really outlandish about its inhabitants. Yet, it's routine for
      archeologists to argue about the use of buildings and artifacts, as we see
      with Megiddo. Those arguments are well within their purview. Others are
      not.

      By the same token, historians may rightfully argue about the purpose of a
      passage - what role it serves in the narrative - what the author's possible
      goal was in writing it. It's another thing entirely to label the work as
      fictitious simply because we don't have independent attestation. I would
      prefer "unconfirmed", which hints at a much more tentative opinion about the
      work.

      Paul Schmehl
      pschmehl@...
      http://www.utdallas.edu/~pauls/
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