Dialogue and Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses
I don’t usually like to spend much time on this sort of thing, but I’ll do so this once.
It can be frustrating to read comments on Bauckham’s new book that come across so confident in criticism even though they arguably miss the point entirely. And though I would love to go through each and every argument raised on this blog, point by point, admitting a good point when it is made, and contesting those that are unfair, I just don’t have the time. But this once I wanted to try my best, with what time I have to hand, to make a few simply points in light of comments one reader has been making on my Bauckham posts, and which the same has been posting across blogdom. However, this is a plea, first and foremost, for proper listening and dialogue, especially as I know that I sometimes struggle to give some an honest hearing.
I value the fact that one reader, Steven Carr, has such a different perspective on Bauckham than most others who visit my blog. To have (and listen to) different opinions can be refreshing and we should be able to learn from each other. This is the great benefit of blogging, I think.
However, sometimes opinions can be so ingrained and negative that discussion doesn’t proceed, and I hope this post will facilitate future discussion. And I mean discussion!
In this post thread I suggested to Steven that the ‘tone’ of his pronouncements were hardly encouraging dialogue. He then quickly responded (again at the bottom of that thread) – he perhaps has more time on his hands than me! – in such a way that invited response about more than the mere content of his propositions. My comments on his new points are in colour in italics below.
(For his whole comment, cf. here)
“I was merely stating facts”
Oh come on, Steven! You can surely do better than that! But then if you think metaphysics is about ‘how many angels can dance on the head of a pin’ (to quote one of your earlier comments on my blog), then perhaps you truly think this counts as ‘fact’! ;-)
“People who praise McGrath's books about atheism don't use any of the arguments in them. Why not? If they are so good?” (bold emphasis mine)
To use the terminology of logicians, this sentence involves a non sequitur. I know plenty who have found his argumemnts hepful, and thus use them.
“And Bauckham *will* come up with zero evidence that for example, Matthew had another name of Levi.”
You’re sure about that are you?
Before I call your bluff, I think I am noticing a trend in your comments again that could be unhelpful. You cannot enter into dialogue with someone, and their arguments, unless you can respect the other. It can be a difficult thing, but it is necessary if we are to learn from each other.
Just to make the point as to how completely off track one can go, and as you go, when one doesn’t truly dialogue with another opinion, let me quote Bauckham on whether Matthew is the same person as Levi:
‘I have argued that the identification of Thaddaeus and Judas the son of James as the same man is a very plausible harmonization, in the light of plentiful onomastic evidence. But the identification of Matthew with Levi the son of Alphaeus - a traditional case of harmonizing the Gospels, in view of the parallel passages Matthew 9:9 (about Matthew) and Mark 2:24 [sic. This is a typo. He means Mark 2:14] (about Levi the son of Alphaeus) - must, on the same grounds of the onomastic evidence available to us, be judged implausible’ (from Chapter 5)So, you are right that Bauckham produces no evidence that Matthew is the same as Levi! Why? Because he doesn’t argue that Matthew is the same person as Levi!! By the way, Bauckham is the leading NT scholar in the field of onomastics, so you should show some respect when it comes to NT names...
By the way, what you need to do now to prove you can dialogue is to admit that you got it totally wrong, and that you had this wide of the mark because, I think, you are not trying to truly dialogue. You are reacting like a Fundie, and I’m sure that is not what you really want.
“As for not being interested in learned debate, have you read Bauckham’s pdf at http://www.apollos.ws/nt-historical-reliability/BauckhamRichardJHRG1.pdf
I simply could not believe how bad it was, how totally lacking it is in any idea of producing a testable hypothesis and testing it against actual data, or exploring the explanatory power of one hypothesis against another.
Instead Bauckham just pulls stuff out of thin air, such as claiming that Bartimaeus died in between Mark writing and Luke writing.”
Yes I have read it. The only point of weight here is that concerning the death of Bartimaeus (the rest is silly and totally unfair rhetoric for which I respond in this sentence accordingly). You are getting muddled between what Bauckham considers corroborative evidence, and the scholarly attempt to understand all the evidence in light of a particular scheme – something we all must do. In other words, this argument is a consequence of the position the main strands of evidence lead. In chapter 3 of Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, Bauckham makes clear that his argument that the name Bartimaeus is dropped by Matthew and Luke is simply an inference from the wider argument. Hence he uses the word ‘presumably’. His argument at this point is entirely plausible actually. It is not about ‘pulling stuff out of thin air’, as you claim. You need to respect a scholar if you can truly engage with them, to listen first. ‘Learned debate’ is more than reading another, it is also, as a first step, respectfully listening, truly listening to another.
“Apart from making things up, Bauckham also selects his evidence to fit what he says.
Bauckham writes 'In no case does a character unnamed in Mark gain a name in Matthew or Luke'.
What about Annas and Caiaphas , I hear you cry?
Well, Bauckham says he is excluding chief priests.
Why? Why should chief priests not be relevant to Bauckham's hypothesis that people were named if they were well known to Christians at the time of writing.
Silence. There is NO methodology.
Unless Bauckham cooked the data by ignoring chief priests simply so he could claim 'In no case does a character unnamed in Mark gain a name in Matthew or Luke'”
This, again, is not about arbitrarily making evidence fit what he says, and if you could try to really dialogue with Bauckham’s arguments, rather than just throwing ‘what an idiot’ type blanks at him, then you might have noticed this. Bauckham spends a while justifying his methodological considerations I think in chapter 3. Yes, there is methodology; I must flatly contradict you. Bauckham is trying to understand why some names came to be left out or added. If they are public people then it is no surprise if they get added to the tradition, especially when Bauckham provides good reasons as to why Mark would not mention the name Caiaphas, and why the name was only later added (cf. chapter 8 and the issue of ‘protective anonymity’ building on the work of Theißen).
So, I think Bauckham's argument makes astonishing sense!
All the time, whether with Caiaphas or those less well-known, Bauckham's goal is to ask why names are added or deleted from the tradition. He provides his reasons for the exceptional addition of Caiaphas, and likewise for those, which are the majority, of deleted names. Why were these names dropped? That is the question he is addressing. And this is why his methodological considerations fairly treat Caiaphas elsewhere.
“Well, if you are going to ignore cases where that does happen, you can certainly claim there are no cases where that does happen.
Making stuff up and cooking the data.
Such is the state of NT scholarship.... ”
These stabs only hit the target if you ignore the question he is addressing, what he does in fact treat elsewhere, and his methodological considerations! I will sound patronising now, by, hey, what the heck. You need to learn to truly dialogue and truly listen to the opinion of another. Especially when Bauckham’s learning is, lets be honest, considerably greater than yours in these matters. As to the sate of NT scholarship, you have clearly no idea. All the more reason to listen, instead of firing off ‘what an idiot’ type of comments that display only your lack of insight.
Though I find some of your comments frustratingly Fundamentalist, I want to make it clear that I appreciate many of your comments and the fact that you have a different opinions on matters, for this is reason to listen to you. But do yourself a favour and listen carefully to others before you attempt criticisms, otherwise they’ll be as hopeless as the ‘he will produce no evidence for Matthew being Levi’! I'm sure you'll respond to this and attempt to take the above apart. But I only have time for response to matters of substance, and no more time for correcting complete misunderstandings and misrepresentations. If you rustle up only the latter, don't consider my silence evidence that your points are meaningful. And though I personally like Bauckham as a man as well as a scholar, I have no ground to defend him for the sake of it - I didn't wite the book -, so I appreciate all points of substance I will honestly think them through.
By the way, I am still not sure how to pronounce that name :-)