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Re: [John_Lit] Re: John and the Infancy Gospels / allusions.

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  • Bill Bullin
    ... Matthew, ... guided ... Bill Bullin writes: Joseph, I like you phrase not contemptuous of common sense . Common sense is of course the stuff of the social
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 23, 2004
      >Dear Joseph, I hope you won't mind an intusion. You wrote:

      > If I understand you correctly, you see in John a great artist, who is
      > by a specific logic of his own. The literary technique of irony is part of
      > his artistic approach. On the other hand, I see in John a great theologian
      > who is not contemptuous of common sense.

      Bill Bullin writes:

      Joseph, I like you phrase 'not contemptuous of common sense'. Common sense
      is of course the stuff of the social scientists who approach their subject's
      'taken for granted world' through the sociology of knowledge. The real issue
      then is whose 'taken for granted world' are we exploring, whose common
      sense? Is it that of the people of second Temple Palestine or
      of 21st century Western logic? Surely we have all been enriched by the
      brilliant 'incarnational' exegesis of Kenneth Bailey.
      Having read his work on the Parable of the Father and of the reaction to a
      father lifting up his skirts and running, I renamed it 'God Without His
      Trowsers On', when working with young people who were alienated from both
      church and society. It cut us to tears and rage: parents, Freud, incest,
      alienation, justice, forgiveness.

      If I may take an analogy that can
      > illustrate our differences, I would say this: According to my ordinary
      > 1+1=2 in all cases. But according to your artistic logic 1+1=X (where X is
      > something that can vary from artist to artist).

      Recently Peter Hofrichter was kind enough to point me in the direction of
      Casper J. Labuschange.
      On page 19 the author considers the ages given for Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
      Abraham 175 years or 7x5x5.
      Isaac 180 years or 5x6x6.
      Jacob 147 years or 3x7x7; having first stated:

      "In the Bible this play with numbers also occurs. Important numbers are
      chiefly 26 and 17. The godname YaHWeH numerically consists of Yod/10+
      He/5+Waw/6+He/5 - 26. However in the 'reduced' variety of gematria, all
      numerical values of the letters were reduced to unit level, dropping the
      zeros: that made the numerical value of the letter Yod 1 instead of 10, and
      the total value of YaHWeH 17 instead of 26."

      He then states: "If you replace multiplication by addition, then
      (7+5+5)=(5+6+6)= (3+7+7)=17. This is clearly no coincidence. Apparently the
      hidden presence of 17 indicates the hidden company of Yahweh who was with
      the patriarchs all through their lives."

      Now this seems to me to make common sense, logic, if I am prepared to the
      phenomenological leap from 21st Century Sussex to the time of the
      Dueteronomists. After all, what do you do if you do not know the age of a
      patriarch? You say what matters is that YHWH was with them throughout their
      years, however different those years may have been, YHWH was the consistent
      factor for them all, and that is really all that matters. It was artistry,

      But your insistence is valid too.

      > I am sorry if my insistence on "elementary logic" and "common sense"
      > your artistic sensitivity. But if we cannot agree on the most elementary
      > things, how can we have meaningful discussions? Gospel scholarship is
      > to a great extent speculative. We desperately need the rigor of scientific
      > research and the invention of a methodological approach to the study of
      > sacred texts. In this regard, I think we must learn from all the human
      > sciences instead of hiding in our ivory towers.

      You cannot be faulted, Joseph. The point is we must use the methods of
      phenomenological historical investigation and methodology to think ourselves
      rigerously into the second Temple horizon, as best we may. This is why I
      became so excited when I read Matthew Morgenstern's brilliant article on
      *The Length of the Genesis Apocryphon* in the Journal of Jewish studies,
      cited in a previous mail. as cited by Professor Vermes in the 1998 paperback
      edition of his the Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Penguin , 448. That
      Professor Vermes had the kindness to respond to a letter from a stranger and
      acknowledge a typographical errors in his comment on the JJS article,
      cleared matters up. It cut through mountains of speculation an provided
      historical proof that the 22 Hebrew letters were used as numbers consecutive
      numbers in the second Temple period. This demonstrated that Hokmah (Wisdom)
      could be numbered as not only 73 but also as 37. What better was then of
      translating the Hebrew concept of Wisdom into Greek than by using the Greek
      term Logos, which has the number 373 (a mathematical chiasm) by the Greek
      method of numbering letters; better by far than using the mathematically
      meaningless term sophia. Fantastic too that Morgenstern's discovery had been
      anticipated in theory by a predecessor.
      All this seems to me to confirm exactly what you say: (1) We must work with
      common sense, phenomenologically speaking; (2) our methods must be
      scientifically rigerous and insisent; (3) we must learn from all human
      sciences; (4) good research cannot be confined to ivory towers; (5)
      co-operation, a willingness to welcome the academic stranger, openess to
      scrutiny and a swift acknowledgment of error leads to social scientific

      I may be wrong but I think I recognise not a few of these qualities in
      Matthew Estrada's approach and in your own message:

      >I know this can be difficult
      > at times. But this is the narrow path that can lead to a better
      > understanding of the gospels.
      > Instead of fighting one another, let us work together and let us begin by
      > agreeing on the importance of logic in the field of scientific research.

      > I have no quarrel with art. What I cannot admit is the claim that art and
      > science are one and the same. It is OK to express very subjective views in
      > art. Science is a constant effort to reach a minimum of objectivity.

      Ah, but what if our evangelist is both an 'artist and a theologian', how
      then do we proceed?

      I sometimes use the model of the human brain; one half is the scientist,
      dissecting, analysing, deconstructing; the other
      half is the artist, picturing, constructing, dreaming. I also refer to one h
      alf as the West and the other half as the East.
      It was the grace of an Arab who cited a Jew to teach the West an important
      lesson that New Testament students ignore at their peril: 'The East is a
      career", Benjamin Disraeli, Tancred, cited after acknowledgments by Edward
      W. Said, Orientalism, (1978).

      If the historian must learn from the artist it seems only reasonable that
      the artist should heed the historian:

      'The historian of the first century...cannot shrink from the question of
      Jesus', Tom Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, (1996), preface.

      Bill Bullin (Private Student, East Sussex, England).
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