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Re: [Synoptic-L] Unhistorical Genealogies

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic-L In Response To: Rick Richmond On: Unhistorical Genealogies From: Bruce [I see on checking (the posts on my screen are out of order) that Stephen
    Message 1 of 4 , Jul 5 6:22 PM
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      To: Synoptic-L
      In Response To: Rick Richmond
      On: Unhistorical Genealogies
      From: Bruce

      [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.

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst



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