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[Synoptic-L] Derico's SBL paper

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  • John C. Poirier
    I recently read T. M. Derico s paper for the upcoming SBL meeting ( Upgrade and Reboot: A Reappraisal of the Default Setting ), and since it appears that I
    Message 1 of 5 , Nov 11, 2004
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      I recently read T. M. Derico’s paper for the upcoming SBL meeting (“Upgrade and Reboot: A Reappraisal of the Default Setting”), and since it appears that I won’t get to attend this year, I’d like to discuss an aspect of Derico’s paper in advance of the meeting.  (Read it at http://www.sbl-site.org/PDF/Derico_Upgrade.pdf.)

       

      There’s a lot that I like about Derico’s paper, but the main argument troubles me.  That argument seems to be that “orality” should not be thought of as requiring a set amount of variability, and that it is therefore illegitimate to point to the patterns of verbal agreement in the gospels as disallowing orality relationships to explain the synoptic tradition, including the interrelationship of the gospels.  The problem with this, if I understand the argument, is that this claim basically admits of no stopping point: it sets up a paradigm that isn’t falsifiable.  Certainly there has to be a point at which orality becomes improbable, but Derico’s argument is set up in such a way that that point can always be pushed further beyond the agreements that we find in the gospels, or in any set of documents for that matter.

       

      I also wonder whether accepting an infinitely-extended understanding of orality is really enough to make the orality model the default position for understanding gospel interrelationships.  It seems to me that the very fact that we have multiple gospels strongly suggests an awareness on the part of some gospel writers that others have already written gospels (otherwise the idea of writing a gospel becomes so automatic that the very question of what sort of genre the gospels represent would seem to be a bad question), and once that much is admitted, it seems fairly obvious to me that the later gospel writers would most likely consult the earlier attempts.  At least that strikes me as a better “default” than the view that all the gospels independently sprang up from a bed of oral tradition.  And since the more recognizably “oral” level of agreement that obtains in some pericopes is easily explained within the confines of a presupposed literary interrelationship, what is the reason for wanting to stretch the orality paradigm to cover those pericopes that are more problematic for that thesis?

       

      Others on this list are better readers of secondary texts than I am, so please correct me if I misunderstood Derico’s argument.

       

       

      John C. Poirier

      Middletown, Ohio

       

    • Dana Ouellette
      In spite of Derico s constant criticism of Biblical scholars not understaning what orality is, i feel that Derico doesn t fully understand orality. He never
      Message 2 of 5 , Nov 11, 2004
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        In spite of Derico's constant criticism of Biblical scholars not
        understaning what orality is, i feel that Derico doesn't fully understand
        orality. He never cites, nor desplays knowledge of, secular orality
        studies, such as Ong, Havelock, Foley, Lord/Parry etc... Wether one agrees
        with these scholars or not, their studies have been the most influencial in
        understanding orality, and therefore, i find it difficult to believe that
        one can have a full appreciation of what orality, a field outside of
        biblical studies, entails when one does not venture to read outside of the
        field.

        Furthermore, Derico seems to go back and forth between an oral composition
        theory (i.e Lord, Dewey, Horsley, Botha) and a simple understanding that
        oral tradition underlies the gospels and is useful for redaction criticism
        and synoptic relations (i.e. Dunn, Kelber). I find very little weight in
        the argument that the synoptic gospels all relied on a similar oral
        tradition and that accounts for the simiarity. Given how oral thought works
        and oral composition, there is no reason to believe there would be such
        similarity and order. The more plausible argument is if one can argue, as
        Lords has, that the gospels were not originally written but orally performed
        from memory and the synoptic gospels represent different performances of one
        oral epic. However, Derico's arguments are not contructed carefully enough
        to distinguish what model of orality he is arguing for. I find this paper
        poorly argued and lacking sufficient knowledge of the current debate
        surrounding orality in general, and oral performance theory and the gospels
        in specific.

        Dana Ouellette

        >From: "John C. Poirier" <poirier@...>
        >To: <Synoptic-L@...>
        >Subject: [Synoptic-L] Derico's SBL paper
        >Date: Thu, 11 Nov 2004 09:29:47 -0500
        >
        >I recently read T. M. Derico's paper for the upcoming SBL meeting
        ("Upgrade
        >and Reboot: A Reappraisal of the Default Setting"), and since it
        appears
        >that I won't get to attend this year, I'd like to discuss an aspect of
        >Derico's paper in advance of the meeting. (Read it at
        >http://www.sbl-site.org/PDF/Derico_Upgrade.pdf.)
        >
        >
        >
        >There's a lot that I like about Derico's paper, but the main argument
        >troubles me. That argument seems to be that "orality" should
        not be thought
        >of as requiring a set amount of variability, and that it is therefore
        >illegitimate to point to the patterns of verbal agreement in the gospels
        as
        >disallowing orality relationships to explain the synoptic tradition,
        >including the interrelationship of the gospels. The problem with this,
        if I
        >understand the argument, is that this claim basically admits of no
        stopping
        >point: it sets up a paradigm that isn't falsifiable. Certainly there
        has to
        >be a point at which orality becomes improbable, but Derico's argument is
        set
        >up in such a way that that point can always be pushed further beyond the
        >agreements that we find in the gospels, or in any set of documents for
        that
        >matter.
        >
        >
        >
        >I also wonder whether accepting an infinitely-extended understanding of
        >orality is really enough to make the orality model the default position
        for
        >understanding gospel interrelationships. It seems to me that the very
        fact
        >that we have multiple gospels strongly suggests an awareness on the part
        of
        >some gospel writers that others have already written gospels (otherwise
        the
        >idea of writing a gospel becomes so automatic that the very question of
        what
        >sort of genre the gospels represent would seem to be a bad question),
        and
        >once that much is admitted, it seems fairly obvious to me that the later
        >gospel writers would most likely consult the earlier attempts. At least
        >that strikes me as a better "default" than the view that all
        the gospels
        >independently sprang up from a bed of oral tradition. And since the
        more
        >recognizably "oral" level of agreement that obtains in some
        pericopes is
        >easily explained within the confines of a presupposed literary
        >interrelationship, what is the reason for wanting to stretch the orality
        >paradigm to cover those pericopes that are more problematic for that
        thesis?
        >
        >
        >
        >Others on this list are better readers of secondary texts than I am, so
        >please correct me if I misunderstood Derico's argument.
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >
        >John C. Poirier
        >
        >Middletown, Ohio
        >
        >
        >



        Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
        List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...
      • Mark Goodacre
        I am interested by John and Dana s comments on Derico s paper. As I see it, the paper makes one important point: generalised appeals to orality are not
        Message 3 of 5 , Nov 11, 2004
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          I am interested by John and Dana's comments on Derico's paper. As I
          see it, the paper makes one important point: generalised appeals to
          "orality" are not particularly helpful given the many varieties of
          orality in antiquity. And there is the related point that to talk
          about "variability" as a general characteristic of orality simply will
          not do. But those important points aside, I found the paper
          frustrating on two levels. First, I was surprised that, given the
          title, a clear allusion to James D. G. Dunn's NTS article of a year or
          so ago, and the related book Jesus Remembered, the article did not
          engage Dunn's work at all. There was simply one footnote expressing
          general support for Dunn's project. It made me wonder whether this was
          a case of a paper having set out with one intention and then having
          gone on with another.

          My second point of frustration was its failure actually to engage the
          case for literary interdependence among the Synoptics. The paper
          repeatedly talks about "Synoptic type similarities" and the levels of
          agreement between the Synoptics, implying that oral tradition could
          explain such agreement in toto. But this is such a radical case, such
          a major departure from the consensus view, that the vagueness with
          which the consensus is characterised is inadequate. I think it's
          difficult to argue for the radical replacement of what is repeatedly
          called the "consensus" view if the arguments made by members of that
          consensus are not actually engaged.

          Mark




          On Thu, 11 Nov 2004 16:36:37 +0000, Dana Ouellette
          <ouellette109@...> wrote:
          > In spite of Derico's constant criticism of Biblical scholars not
          > understaning what orality is, i feel that Derico doesn't fully understand
          > orality. He never cites, nor desplays knowledge of, secular orality
          > studies, such as Ong, Havelock, Foley, Lord/Parry etc... Wether one agrees
          > with these scholars or not, their studies have been the most influencial in
          > understanding orality, and therefore, i find it difficult to believe that
          > one can have a full appreciation of what orality, a field outside of
          > biblical studies, entails when one does not venture to read outside of the
          > field.
          >
          > Furthermore, Derico seems to go back and forth between an oral composition
          > theory (i.e Lord, Dewey, Horsley, Botha) and a simple understanding that
          > oral tradition underlies the gospels and is useful for redaction criticism
          > and synoptic relations (i.e. Dunn, Kelber). I find very little weight in
          > the argument that the synoptic gospels all relied on a similar oral
          > tradition and that accounts for the simiarity. Given how oral thought works
          > and oral composition, there is no reason to believe there would be such
          > similarity and order. The more plausible argument is if one can argue, as
          > Lords has, that the gospels were not originally written but orally performed
          > from memory and the synoptic gospels represent different performances of one
          > oral epic. However, Derico's arguments are not contructed carefully enough
          > to distinguish what model of orality he is arguing for. I find this paper
          > poorly argued and lacking sufficient knowledge of the current debate
          > surrounding orality in general, and oral performance theory and the gospels
          > in specific.
          >
          > Dana Ouellette
          >
          > >From: "John C. Poirier" <poirier@...>
          > >To: <Synoptic-L@...>
          > >Subject: [Synoptic-L] Derico's SBL paper
          > >Date: Thu, 11 Nov 2004 09:29:47 -0500
          >
          >
          > >
          > >I recently read T. M. Derico's paper for the upcoming SBL meeting
          > ("Upgrade
          > >and Reboot: A Reappraisal of the Default Setting"), and since it
          > appears
          > >that I won't get to attend this year, I'd like to discuss an aspect of
          > >Derico's paper in advance of the meeting. (Read it at
          > >http://www.sbl-site.org/PDF/Derico_Upgrade.pdf.)
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > >There's a lot that I like about Derico's paper, but the main argument
          > >troubles me. That argument seems to be that "orality" should
          > not be thought
          > >of as requiring a set amount of variability, and that it is therefore
          > >illegitimate to point to the patterns of verbal agreement in the gospels
          > as
          > >disallowing orality relationships to explain the synoptic tradition,
          > >including the interrelationship of the gospels. The problem with this,
          > if I
          > >understand the argument, is that this claim basically admits of no
          > stopping
          > >point: it sets up a paradigm that isn't falsifiable. Certainly there
          > has to
          > >be a point at which orality becomes improbable, but Derico's argument is
          > set
          > >up in such a way that that point can always be pushed further beyond the
          > >agreements that we find in the gospels, or in any set of documents for
          > that
          > >matter.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > >I also wonder whether accepting an infinitely-extended understanding of
          > >orality is really enough to make the orality model the default position
          > for
          > >understanding gospel interrelationships. It seems to me that the very
          > fact
          > >that we have multiple gospels strongly suggests an awareness on the part
          > of
          > >some gospel writers that others have already written gospels (otherwise
          > the
          > >idea of writing a gospel becomes so automatic that the very question of
          > what
          > >sort of genre the gospels represent would seem to be a bad question),
          > and
          > >once that much is admitted, it seems fairly obvious to me that the later
          > >gospel writers would most likely consult the earlier attempts. At least
          > >that strikes me as a better "default" than the view that all
          > the gospels
          > >independently sprang up from a bed of oral tradition. And since the
          > more
          > >recognizably "oral" level of agreement that obtains in some
          > pericopes is
          > >easily explained within the confines of a presupposed literary
          > >interrelationship, what is the reason for wanting to stretch the orality
          > >paradigm to cover those pericopes that are more problematic for that
          > thesis?
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > >Others on this list are better readers of secondary texts than I am, so
          > >please correct me if I misunderstood Derico's argument.
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > >
          > >John C. Poirier
          > >
          > >Middletown, Ohio
          > >
          > >
          > >
          >
          >
          > Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
          > List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...
          >


          --
          Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
          Dept of Theology and Religion
          University of Birmingham
          Elmfield House, Selly Oak tel.+44 121 414 7512
          Birmingham B29 6LQ UK fax: +44 121 415 8376

          http://www.theology.bham.ac.uk/goodacre
          http://NTGateway.com


          --
          Dr Mark Goodacre mailto:M.S.Goodacre@...
          Dept of Theology and Religion
          University of Birmingham
          Elmfield House, Selly Oak tel.+44 121 414 7512
          Birmingham B29 6LQ UK fax: +44 121 415 8376

          http://www.theology.bham.ac.uk/goodacre
          http://NTGateway.com

          Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
          List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...
        • kaolson101
          John, Dana and Mark, While I am in general agreement with the criticisms of Dericho s paper that the three of you have articulated, I think you are all being
          Message 4 of 5 , Nov 12, 2004
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            John, Dana and Mark,

            While I am in general agreement with the criticisms of Dericho's
            paper that the three of you have articulated, I think you are all
            being far too kind to it. It's a classic example of how incredibly
            low some scholars set the bar for themselves and how high they set it
            for others. I took two pages of notes on it, which I hope to write
            up and post later on, but for right now I'll just address what I see
            as the central problem with what Dericho is trying to do:

            He (or she?) identifies no problem with the literary paradigm that
            requires a different explanation; he produces no examples or other
            evidence for the existence of the type of orality he is suggesting as
            an alternative explanation; and he chides scholars for accepting the
            literary explanation without first "proving" the non-existence of the
            type of orality he is hypothesizing.

            Best Wishes,

            Ken

            kenolson101@...






            Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
            List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...
          • John C. Poirier
            ... His first name is Travis. ... Yes, yes, and yes. Why didn t I say that? I don t understand the reason for this sudden wave of scholars arguing to replace
            Message 5 of 5 , Nov 12, 2004
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              Ken Olson wrote:

              > He (or she?)

              His first name is Travis.

              > identifies no problem with the literary paradigm that requires a
              > different explanation; he produces no examples or other evidence
              > for the existence of the type of orality he is suggesting as an
              > alternative explanation; and he chides scholars for accepting the
              > literary explanation without first "proving" the non-existence of
              > the type of orality he is hypothesizing.

              Yes, yes, and yes. Why didn't I say that?

              I don't understand the reason for this sudden wave of scholars arguing to
              replace the literary interrelationship paradigm with an orality
              (non-interrelated) paradigm. Is it simply a case of orality studies coming
              of age? (I thought that had already happened, but the biblical guild's
              harvesting of other areas' insights is often delayed.) Or is it perhaps a
              reaction against the tedious micro-explanations of literary details in the
              gospels (esp. with discussions of three layers of redaction in Q, etc.)? Or
              is it simply a desire for a more "earthy" model of transmission for the
              gospel tradition? Or could it be a conservative theological
              reaction--*viz.* the idea that three *independent* deposits of tradition are
              better than one independent + two dependent?



              John C. Poirier
              Middletown, Ohio



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