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Re: [John_Lit] authorship and philosophy of religion

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  • DanielMcGrady22@aol.com
    John, I found your remarks relating philosophy and GJohn as well as the epistles relevant and interesting. I only have one or two remarks about your use of
    Message 1 of 3 , Feb 22, 2005
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      John,

      I found your remarks relating philosophy and GJohn as well as the epistles
      relevant and interesting. I only have one or two remarks about your use of
      philosophy.

      In a message dated 19/02/2005 12:49:14 GMT Standard Time, jonob@...
      writes:


      There is one topic of importance to an
      understanding of the construction of New
      Testament manuscripts, about which I haven't seen
      so much discussion. This leads to approaches to
      scripture that seem contradictory to me. The
      topic is the philosophy of history, in particular
      of religious history, of the authors of the New
      Testament scriptures.

      The basic ideas of the 'modern' Western
      philosophies; the rationalism of Kant,
      Kant is more relevant than you think. Kant was not a rationalist. The main
      Continental Rationalists were Descartes, Leibniz and Spinoza. Leibniz held
      that all experiential propositions (synthetic propositions) could be deduced
      from analytic propositions (propositions true in virtue of their logic).
      Thus all knowledge was in principle deducible from Reason. It was Kant that
      rejected that and argued that there were propositions that were both a priori
      (known prior to experience) and synthetic (not analytic). What became
      central for Kant was how all knowledge was not based on either Reason or Experience
      but realized through their mediation in what he called the Transcendental
      Imagination. The relevance in short is this, that there are eternal, divine
      truths, realities that are known to us as the very conditions of experience
      and existence. Thus even on a purely Kantian basis, the Logos is highly
      relevant.



      the
      speculative idealists and mystics (e.g.
      Schleiermacher),
      What Schleiermacher calls 'feeling' of the Absolute, Heidegger reads him as
      talking about the ontological rather than the ontic. That which is present
      and open to us on an a priori basis, is something but not a being. The
      ontological, is ultimately Being as such, not the idea of what it is to be, but
      the being of a being as such.

      What you call 'speculative' idealism does not mean 'theoretical' in the
      modern sense of that word, but that which is a priori but immediately intuited,
      understood. That which is immediately understood a priori is not an idea
      but the absolute as such. Ideas of the absolute are only ideas, i.e. images.


      All these philosophies IMO represent variations
      on the (embryonic form of) Gnosticism that the
      author of 1 John is trying to counter.
      If you read Heidegger, you will see that philosophy begins with being and
      not with ideas. I.e. the first priority of philosophy is not to know, or to
      believe, or to have an idea about, but to be. This distinguishes philosophy
      from the sciences, including Theology. You could on that basis say that only
      philosophy seeks to counter Gnosticism which pursues salvation through
      knowledge.



      In all of the above, Jesus is essentially a
      'primus inter pares'. In 19th century Western
      philosophy, this lead to a growing interest in
      the study of 'Christ after the flesh'. The
      emphasis was on the humanistic picture of Jesus.
      Also, Schopenhauer's parallel between Jesus and
      the Buddha, which has striking similarities with
      gnosticism.
      As soon as in issue of Logos becoming flesh is raised philosophy is
      essentially involved. It is the question of how the Logos instantiates itself. How
      does the divine Logos become co-present in something individual? We have
      the same problem in language. How does a meaning, which is non-material become
      united with the material signifier in order to form a word? Is a mediator
      required?



      This is the approach that I would expect to the
      writings of the eye witnesses of Christ, if
      people really were convinced that this was a
      'Once for all' revelation.

      If John is to disclose the Christ, the Logos made flesh, as 'the once and
      for all revelation', it must be of the Logos as such rather than any idea about
      the Logos. He must show the way to the present, self-manifesting Logos
      through the flesh beyond which it is impossible to go. He must demonstrate it
      (or rather this 'who') as the self-disclosing expression of eternal life.

      Sorry if any of this is enigmatic. Under too much time pressure.


      Daniel McGrady



      John M. Noble

      (Linköping, Sweden)

      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]






      [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
    • Bill Bullin
      Dear John Although I m struggling to fully appreciate your link between what I perceive to be a wide spectrum of post-enlightenment approaches to the Fourth
      Message 2 of 3 , Feb 23, 2005
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        Dear John

        Although I'm struggling to fully appreciate your link between what I
        perceive to be a wide spectrum of post-enlightenment approaches to the
        Fourth Gospel, ranging from historical positivism to mysticism at one end of
        the hermeneutic tunnel to the embryonic gnosticism encountered in I John at
        the other, I am in no doubt that you raise some crucial questions in
        relation to the Johannine text, its authorship, editing and transmission.
        Indeed by racking down your general point to focus in on the Fourth Gospel,
        serves to sharpen the discussion admirably.

        May I offer a few preliminary comments?

        (1) If those involved in the preparation and dissemination of the Fourth
        Gospel considered that they were writing and transmitting (rather than
        merely reading) Jewish Scripture, it is reasonable both to suppose that this
        would have had a profound influence on them and that the text would bear
        certain traditional trademarks of both sacred text composition and
        transmission. That the Fourth Gospel takes the form it does, (that is a
        careful, studied, composition on the meaning and significance of the cosmic
        Jesus event), profoundly reinforces the likelihood of these preliminary
        suppositions, underpinning any rational for searching out evidence of such
        'trad(ition)emarks'. In other words it would be more surprising if they were
        absent rather than present. The teaching within the document, as it relates
        to both 'scripture', 'truth' and 'prayer' merely serves to intensify the
        probability. Here I would suggest that Jewish rituals concerning prayer are
        highly relevant to scriptural composition and transmission since the task
        would have been undertaken prayerfully; presumably the prayer shawl and
        forehead text box (Heb: tefillin; Greek phylacteries; Aramaic: qibhla =
        tradition), would have been worn.

        (2) There seems to be to be at least two approaches to the sacredness and
        truthfulness of Scripture: let me call them the fundamentalist and the
        ikonic. It seems to me that the Fourth Gospel portrays a Jesus locked in
        dispute with religious authorities over the nature of the sacredness of
        Scripture, the fundamentalist vs. the ikonic. Let me say something about the
        latter because it seems to me to inform an understanding of the composition
        and truthfulness of the Fourth Gospel. Put simply the ikon is a portrait
        that serves the preliminary purpose of focussing prayer and meditation, yet
        it is so composed that it can then move the human spirit through and beyond
        the portrait into a deeper realm of transcendental existence, or better it
        melts the glass-ceiling of the sacred crystal canopy (to mix and adapt Peter
        Berger's sociology and pre-enlightenment thought), the barrier between the
        divine and human realms, making the transcendent imminent. From this
        perspective a fundamentalist view of Scripture is idolatrous rather than
        ikonic, since it seeks to stone the adulterous woman rather than lift her
        into the holy place and flood her in living streams of divine, imminent
        mercy, (I acknowledge this illustration draws on material absent from our
        earliest Johannine texts). I recognise that this approach takes us to the
        precipitous borders of Christianity and Gnosticism but it also takes us to
        the deeply entangling dispute between fundamental and ikonic scriptural
        sacredness and between the Jew, Jesus and, apparently, many of the Jewish
        rulers of his period, which is exactly where the Fourth Gospel stubbornly
        contextualises itself.

        (3) You are absolutely correct to proffer the Masoretic tradition as
        backcloth but this is a very lengthy tradition with its own history
        incorporating, I would argue, both mystical ikonic and fundamentalist
        schools of thought within it. We can of course also look to the Dead Sea
        Scroll Scriptures and beyond the Hebrew texts to the LXX and and to other
        contemporary Greek documents; an important, relevant example of which would,
        I think, be Wisdom of Solomon [N.T. Wright's re-evaluation of this
        document's theology is striking: The Resurrection of the Son of God, SPCK,
        (2003), 162-175]. In significant respects how the sacred writing and copying
        traditions bear on Greek (and Syriac) texts has specific relevance to the
        Greek text of the Fourth Gospel, conversely something of the transmission
        tradition might be concealed if not entirely lost in 'translation'.

        (4) What then are the 'trad(ition)emarks' we should be looking out for? As
        well as vowel signs (of no direct relevance to a Greek text) and the masorah
        parva, gedolah, magna and finalis there seems little doubt that Nomina Sacra
        and word and letter counts, including central words, played a significant
        role in composition and accurate transmission. I think it is profoundly
        mistaken to describe the Nomina Sacra as 'short hand' implicitly
        disassociating it from the massive mystical tradition associated with the
        power and holiness of the divine Name both in Jewish sacred / spiritual;
        Temple and magical traditions. In previous postings I have tried to draw
        attention to the significance of word and letter counts in parts of the New
        Testament, particularly as it relates to form. In respect of the Johannine
        Prologue for example, I have tried to argue that the pivot of the text is
        the term 'Name' in 1:12b and that in the High Priestly prayer, the word
        count and repeated use of the vocative 'Pater' relates to the Aramaic number
        count of the term Aramaic term ABBA, the Aramaic term preserved in the Greek
        text of two Pauline epistles (it may not be entirely irrelevant or
        unconnected that some Jewish mystics of the medieval period composed some of
        their prayers by word count). The accurate transmission of the Prologue and
        the well known variants in P66 and P75 have a bearing on your argument.

        (5) When we turn specifically to the editing of the Fourth Gospel we seem to
        encounter the paradox of its seams and seamlessness. One possible solution
        is that editing and development occurred during the lifetime of the
        evangelist but with his departure the process came to an abrupt but
        reverential end. This suggests to me that what we normally term the signs
        tradition and the discourse material evolved and were woven together during
        the lifetime of the evangelist but awkward glitches were not smoothed out in
        a final phase of editing. It seems to me that many problems are eliminated
        if the evangelist is recognised to be an eye-witness but not an Apostle in
        the sense of one of the twelve. As J. A. T. Robinson argued, John 5:2 is
        relevant to both dating and editing issues.

        (6) One last point. Transmission relates to the scribal copying of texts. It
        is therefore entirely relevant to consider how the Fourth Gospel text was
        used between the autograph being completed and the mid c.2nd when the John
        Rylands Papyrus was laid in the sands of archaeological time. How many
        copies were produced and how were they used, (clearly we are not talking
        print runs and photocopies). One possible model is provided by the medieval
        monks and copyists where evangelising monks moved to and from a centrally
        located and protected text to and from 'the world'. How many full copies of
        the Fourth Gospel (rather than notes from it), were actually produced
        between the autograph's composition and the mid co. 2nd is an unanswerable
        question yet any hypothetical figure lurking in our sub-conscious (say 5 or
        50) profoundly influences our understanding of the transmission process.

        I hope these responses prove stimulating and worthy of your important
        question.

        Best wishes

        Bill Bullin (Private Student) East Sussex, England.

        >>JET Robinson, in 'The Priority of John' takes the
        view that the inconsistencies and glitches are a
        sign not of inconsistencies added in by
        subsequent redaction, but rather as a sign of
        lack of a final editing. This would be in line
        with the position taken by the Majorettes. I am
        not an expert here. It is unclear how the Old
        Testament scriptures arose, but it seems clear
        that from roughly 200 BC onwards, the Majorettes
        insisted on preserving the text exactly as it
        was. Even when they noticed obvious errors, even
        the slightest error in the pointing, they refused
        to alter anything at all. They felt that they did
        not have the authority to tamper with the text.

        This is the approach that I would expect to the
        writings of the eye witnesses of Christ, if
        people really were convinced that this was a
        'Once for all' revelation. They would preserve
        the writing of the eye witness apostles exactly
        as it was and wouldn't alter anything, even if
        they felt that the beloved apostle had been
        deficient in grammar or inconsistent in ideas.

        In other words, you should not expect a text that
        is entirely consistent or a text that is free
        from errors. You should expect a text that is
        very close to that produced by the original
        authors.

        I don't see the process of editing in the second
        century as a feasible idea if there was a
        prevailing sense that the Christ event had been a
        'once for all' revelation, if there was a sense
        that Jesus was more than a 'primus inter pares',
        that there was a qualitative difference between
        this revelation and any other revelation. If
        there was a belief that this was the sort of
        event that had taken place, then I simply don't
        see how anyone could have 'gotten away with' a
        serious redaction of the manuscripts.

        It seems to me that the authority for redaction
        within the second century could only exist if the
        'once for all' element were removed from the
        Christ event. If Jesus is not regarded as a once
        for all revelation, but merely as the bearer of a
        word or philosophical doctrine, 'Man is saved by
        the metaphysical element alone and not by the
        historical' (Fiche), this opens the door to the
        idea of the knowledge of the historical element
        as a growing revelation of God. Under this view
        of the life of Jesus, it becomes more than
        possible that people are considered to have the
        authority to edit the texts.

        All this may look like a general comment on the
        NT scriptures and therefore inappropriate for
        this list. And it is, except for the fact that it
        was motivated firstly by the commentary on John
        by CK Barrett where, to my mind, the theology
        that he draws out of GJohn seems to be
        inconsistent with the approach to the writing of
        GJohn that he assumes. Secondly, I found the book
        by JAT Robinson rather striking and it seemed to
        make an awful lot of sense when I read it.


        John M. Noble

        (Linköping, Sweden)
      • John M. Noble
        Daniel McGrady, Thanks for your comments. I have a couple of remarks in response to what you say about Kant, but since it is off topic, I ll try to keep it
        Message 3 of 3 , Feb 24, 2005
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          Daniel McGrady,

          Thanks for your comments. I have a couple of
          remarks in response to what you say about Kant,
          but since it is off topic, I'll try to keep it
          brief.

          >What became
          >central for Kant was how all knowledge was not
          >based on either Reason or Experience
          >but realized through their mediation in what he called the Transcendental 
          >Imagination. The relevance in short is this, that there are eternal, divine
          >truths, realities that are known to us as the very conditions of experience
          >and existence. Thus even on a purely Kantian basis, the Logos is highly
          >relevant.

          I view Kant as basically rationalist; even the
          title of his book 'Religion within the Limits of
          Mere Reason' suggests this. In the first part of
          that book, he develops his doctrine of radical
          evil. But in the second part, he seems to take
          back what he said in the first. (In the first
          part, he declares the will to be indissoluble and
          therefore responsible for evil, yet in the second
          he once more divides the will into a good part
          and a bad part and ascribes to the good part, as
          the true self, the power to overcome the evil
          part).

          He stops short of admitting the irrational nature
          of evil, which would have been the inevitable
          consequence. He is therefore still able to pursue
          a philosophy which is basically rationalist. Had
          he retained his doctrine of radical evil, then
          the Logos would have been highly relevant, but he
          didn't. His basic philosophy 'I ought, therefore
          I can' renders redundant 'the Word became flesh'.

          >If you read Heidegger, you will see that philosophy begins with being and 
          >not with ideas. I.e. the first priority of philosophy is not to know, or to
          >believe, or to have an idea about, but to be. This distinguishes philosophy
          >from the sciences, including Theology. You
          >could on that basis say that only
          >philosophy seeks to counter Gnosticism which pursues salvation through
          >knowledge.

          As far as I understand it, Heidegger isn't very
          well understood and I do not understand his
          statement here. But I would say exactly the
          opposite of your conclusion; all the major
          Western philosophies seem to present a system to
          overcome the separation from the Divine. But none
          of them accept the fact which the moral sense
          calls 'evil'. It is not that they do not see
          this; they all interpret it in a different sense.
          Kant came close, but then he withdrew. As a
          result, they are all a form of Gnosticism.

          >As soon as in issue of Logos becoming flesh is raised philosophy is 
          >essentially involved. It is the question of how
          >the Logos instantiates itself. How
          >does the divine Logos become co-present in something individual? We have
          >the same problem in language. How does a
          >meaning, which is non-material become
          >united with the material signifier in order to form a word? Is a mediator
          >required?

          My initial point was not that philosophy was not
          involved, but rather that the prevalent view of
          philosophy among the Christian community within
          the first century would decide whether or not
          there existed people in the second and third
          centuries who were considered to have the
          authority to edit the sacred texts.

          >If John is to disclose the Christ, the Logos made flesh, as 'the once and
          >for all revelation', it must be of the Logos as
          >such rather than any idea about
          >the Logos. He must show the way to the present, self-manifesting Logos
          >through the flesh beyond which it is impossible
          >to go. He must demonstrate it
          >(or rather this 'who') as the self-disclosing expression of eternal life.

          Agreed.

          John M. Noble

          Linköping, Sweden
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