Re: [Synoptic-L] Unhistorical Genealogies
- To: Synoptic-L
In Response To: Rick Richmond
On: Unhistorical Genealogies
[I see on checking (the posts on my screen are out of order) that Stephen
Carlson has already given the short answer to the question below. I might
perhaps still contribute my version of the long answer. / Bruce]
RICK: What is the point of examining closely genealogies that we know to be
unhistorical. What could they possibly reveal to scientific inquiry?
BRUCE: The point is not to discover the true genealogy of Jesus, but to
discover what AMt and ALk were up to in propounding the irreconcilable
genealogies that they have, at least one, and perhaps both, of which are
false. If we knew what they were up to, we would know something about their
motives, and that would be precious information, not about Jesus (for which
purpose, only the truth would be useful), but about them.
Fictitious data is very useful for this sort of purpose. If X gives what we
otherwise know (never mind how) to be a true genealogy, then we can't
attribute to X any quality except accuracy. If X gives a miscopied version
of the true genealogy, then we know more: for instance, by analyzing the
type of inadvertent errors X makes, we might be able to tell whether his
source was oral or written. That's thus a little more productive of
knowledge about X. And, best of all, if X gives a concocted genealogy, we
can ask what his motive was, who he was trying to impress, and in what way.
That would be simply terrific. It would be an aid to our exact knowledge of
this part of the past. It would in that sense be of scientific value, it
would contribute to Wissenschaft.
From the type of letter-confusions made by a mediaeval scribe, a suitably
equipped scholar can often tell whether the original was in uncial or
miniscule or cursive, and sometimes in what national version of those
scripts (Burgundian, Irish, whatever). That gives us an otherwise lost piece
of text history, the hands through which the text had flowed before reaching
the hand that wrote the copy we are looking at. Facts about manuscripts that
we no longer physically possess. And so on. Whereas if the text were
flawlessly copied into the script used by the scribe, we would only be able
to say that the scribe was exceptionally alert. All other past hints would
be obliterated. Which would be a loss.
It is the departures from truth that are useful for discovering the
transmission process, including the intrusions of authorial originality into
the transmission process. No?
And in the end, knowledge of the nature of the transmission process (which
in most traditions of this type incorporates an elaboration and evolution
process) is essential to evaluating our knowledge of what it is the
transmission process purports to transmit.
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst
Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
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