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Re: [Synoptic-L] Synoptic Problem Memo (Rev 1)

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  • E Bruce Brooks
    To: Synoptic-L In Response To: Joe Weaks On: Synoptic Theories From: Bruce JOE: Right. I think, then, that we are talking apples/oranges. You re centering on
    Message 1 of 5 , Jan 19, 2005
      To: Synoptic-L
      In Response To: Joe Weaks
      On: Synoptic Theories
      From: Bruce

      JOE: Right. I think, then, that we are talking apples/oranges. You're
      centering on the theory, and I tend to care more about real implication for
      interpretation.

      BRUCE: I don't see it that way, or rather I don't see a clear-cut dichotomy.
      I see rather a natural methodological sequence. Philology frames a text
      theory on purely textual evidence, by doing what it knows how to do. History
      unpacks the texts as thus presented, and works out the implications for
      events.

      My view (not my own, but long since stated by the classic manual writers
      Langlois et Seignobos, and long before them, by the Chinese text critic Yau
      Ji-hvng) is that the philology has to be done before the history can
      reputably begin. A text is not a "source" for history until it has been
      philologically scrutinized, and until its nature and date, absolute or
      relative (plus a few other basics) have been determined with reasonable
      firmness.

      But I see both as part of a larger process. To me as a philologist, the
      plausibility of the historical implications (and their support or lack of it
      from other circumstantial evidence) is the final test of the viability of
      the philological hypothesis (the statement that says what type of
      relatedness obtains among the three Synoptics). So even if it is not
      strictly a part of philology, it is nevertheless a matter of constant
      relevance to philology.

      The list of possible configurations simply exhausts the three-way
      philological possibilities; it also (and I thought this was amusing) shows
      how few unambiguous directionality determinations might suffice to indicate
      which of the 25 possible configurations we have before us. The good news is
      that there can be only one relationship in reality. The bad news is that it
      may after all be difficult to find. (That a solution, once found, is next to
      impossible to convince anybody of, is by now news to no one. That's however
      a social fact, not a philological fact, and since I can't do anything about
      it, I choose to ignore it).

      As for "theory," I don't in my own work invoke at any stage what I would
      call a "theory." I try to look at the facts, and then find a way of
      explaining the facts (a "hypothesis" if you like). "Theory" in our time
      implies something pretty heavy, and usually Marxist; at minimum some
      predisposition that is protected from empirical examination of the
      situation. I try, I think any historian tries, to exclude such
      predispositions from the investigation, whether merely personal or
      "theoretical" predispositions. The difficulty of doing this is well known.
      The impossibility of doing it, though often enough asserted in recent years,
      has not yet been demonstrated.

      JOE: Good luck on the project

      BRUCE: Thanks, it may come in handy.

      Bruce

      E Bruce Brooks
      Warring States Project
      University of Massachusetts at Amherst
      http://www.umass.edu/wsp



      Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
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    • Joseph Weaks
      ... Well, I do understand even more of your project and approach now. That s helpful. But, I do think we re still talking past one another. Most of what you
      Message 2 of 5 , Jan 19, 2005
        On Jan 19, 2005, at 8:18 PM, E Bruce Brooks wrote:
        > JOE: Right. I think, then, that we are talking apples/oranges. You're
        > centering on the theory, and I tend to care more about real
        > implication for
        > interpretation.
        >
        > BRUCE: I don't see it that way, or rather I don't see a clear-cut
        > dichotomy.
        > I see rather a natural methodological sequence. Philology frames a text
        > theory on purely textual evidence, by doing what it knows how to do.
        > History
        > unpacks the texts as thus presented, and works out the implications for
        > events.
        >

        Well, I do understand even more of your project and approach now.
        That's helpful. But, I do think we're still talking past one another.
        Most of what you said about your method is in fact what I meant by
        "theory"-- it is theoretical. The point of examining practical
        implication follows the theory-- it's the "so what". I think of JDEP
        in Hebrew Bible introductory texts... it ruled the day as THE means for
        understanding the majority of texts, but in recent introductions, JDEP
        is introduced without any "so what". Or, I think of the primary and
        valid criticism of Burridge's work on gospel genre. Professor Burridge
        concedes so much in his definition of genre for the sake of comparing
        Mark to both Xenephon and Suetonius that he's left with a "so what",
        for which me has tried to write corrective followups.

        Cheers,
        Joe

        **************************************************************
        Rev. Joseph A. Weaks
        Senior Minister, Bethany Christian Church, Dallas
        Ph.D. (Cand.), Brite Divinity School, Ft. Worth
        j.weaks@...

        The Macintosh Biblioblog http://macbiblioblog.blogspot.com
        "All things Macintosh for theB ible Scholar"
        **************************************************************


        Synoptic-L Homepage: http://www.bham.ac.uk/theology/synoptic-l
        List Owner: Synoptic-L-Owner@...
      • E Bruce Brooks
        To: Synoptic-L Cc: CGC (Comparative History Discussion) In Response To: Joe Weaks On: Theory and Method From: Bruce [Preface for the comparative law people on
        Message 3 of 5 , Jan 19, 2005
          To: Synoptic-L
          Cc: CGC (Comparative History Discussion)
          In Response To: Joe Weaks
          On: Theory and Method
          From: Bruce

          [Preface for the comparative law people on the CGC list: this is one item in
          an NT exchange which, as it evolved, I thought might be suggestive for legal
          history. It is copied to you accordingly. Would those who know the JDEP
          theory of the origin of Jewish law, and its historical consequences, as I do
          not, care to comment? / Bruce]

          I suspect that this exchange may be wearying the NT many. I add this note
          nevertheless, since I feel importantly about the distinction (under whatever
          names, and I am open to better ones) between what I would call theory and
          method.

          Method, to me, is the toolkit. It is the list of devices one learns in, say,
          Metzger's Text of the New Testament. This is not so much a set of
          conclusions about the manuscripts, or about the text of the NT as deduced
          from the best manuscripts (Metzger does touch on these things, but for a
          full-fledged theory of the NT text, one goes instead to something like
          Westcott and Hort, 1882 and reprints), as a list of stuff to watch for when
          working on those problems. Prominent among them is the error canon, the list
          of mistakes which experience shows scribes are likely to make. Knowing those
          likely errors sensitizes the beginner by appropriating a huge amount of
          other people's experience (Griesbach's caution that "lectio brevior potior"
          does not mean that scribes ALWAYS expand, and so on, is very well taken, at
          all points). Method has no content.

          Theory, on the other hand, as I understand it, is a view of a particular
          text or corpus arrived at after using method (or by serendipity, or any
          other way). It offers an explanatory model. It proposes to explain, to
          account for. Theory has content; content is the whole point and power of
          theory.

          JOE: Most of what you said about your method is in fact what I meant by
          "theory"-- it is theoretical. The point of examining practical implication
          follows the theory-- it's the "so what".

          BRUCE: I have no problem with the idea that once we have arrived at a theory
          (in the above sense: an explanatory model), we need to ask, what are the
          consequences if it is true? I think it is well established in the sciences
          that a theory without consequences is nugatory, since it cannot be tested by
          observing those consequences. As for method being "true," it is a
          contradiction in terms. Method can at most be helpful in trying to arrive at
          truth. Method is not an answer, it is a way of reaching answers. For that
          reason, it cannot be tested, and thus cannot be refuted (though it is always
          subject to being better observed). Thus, refuting a particular theory of
          Gospel origins, or establishing that a given passage is not after all an
          interpolation, and so on, would leave the methodological the observation
          that scribes often expand still standing, and unaffected. The country doctor
          might misdiagnose a given case of influenza, but his thermometer will still
          work. Method is what tells him to use the thermometer.

          JOE: I think of JDEP in Hebrew Bible introductory texts... it ruled the day
          as THE means for
          understanding the majority of texts, but in recent introductions, JDEP is
          introduced without any "so what".

          BRUCE: JDEP (as I understand it, the idea that not Moses, but four different
          persons represented by the letters J, D, E, and P, wrote the first five
          books of the OT) strikes me as precisely a theory - a conclusion after
          examination, including an examination of the names for God in particular
          segments of text. JDEP has content, it says something about the Pentateuch.
          Whether the JDEP theory is presented in a given book AS a theory, or
          silently accepted as an assured fact, may reflect one way or another on the
          author of that book, but it doesn't change the status of JDEP as a theory.

          JDEP isn't a method by which one investigates any other problem (though, if
          found valid, it might be suggestive as a precedent for seemingly analogous
          cases). It is rather a theory whose point is limited to explaining (or if
          one prefers, and conservative denominations apparently do prefer, offering
          to explain) one particular problem: the origin of the Mosaic law.

          I should think that JDEP can be tested by its consequences, like any theory.
          I am out of my element here, and off-topic for the list to boot, for which
          apologies, but for instance: If the JDEP explanatory model is true, what
          sort of historical picture emerges? Do the successive layers of law in that
          model make sense as social evolution, or as a response to social evolution?
          Can we form from the JDEP model a picture of an evolving Israel, and is
          there any collateral evidence that would either support or refute that
          picture? Is there seeming contact with the law codes or organizing documents
          of any contiguous civilization, and does the interchronology work out right?
          Stuff like that.

          At which point one calls in the comparative law people and asks them: Does
          this make sense to you? The previous philology, the work that noted a
          certain distribution of J and E in those OT books, is not subject to that
          kind of verification (instead, it is subject to correction by more accurate
          observation). Method teaches us to pay attention to distributions. But no
          distribution becomes a theory until it has been judged significant, and made
          into a scenario for the emergence of the material in question.

          Or so it looks from here. Better terms, and better explication of these
          terms, are always welcome. And if anyone would like to recommend a book as
          the current best exposition of NT or NT-relevant philological method (I
          already have Maas and West, and obviously Metzger), I am listening.

          Bruce

          E Bruce Brooks
          Research Professor of Chinese
          Warring States Project
          University of Massachusetts at Amherst


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