Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Bauckham responds II

Prof Richard Bauckham has been reading your comments in my series on his Jesus and the Eyewitnesses again, and he has this to say in response to a strand of criticism that has surfaced a number of times from a certain Mr Carr (cf. e.g. the comments in part 7):

“Stephen Carr makes the same point over and over. He accuses me of making mere assertions without proof. He does not understand the nature of my arguments. I am offering historical hypotheses to account for the data. This is a normal part of historical method. Historians do it all the time. We have certain data (in this case some aspects of the text of the Gospels) and we must try to find a hypothesis that adequately explains them (as well as being consistent with all our other relevant historical knowledge). So, for example, why is that, whereas most recipients of Jesus’ healings are unnamed in the Gospels, a few are named. I offer a hypothesis that explains this. I know of no other hypothesis that does. Or why do the names of the women vary at different points in a Gospel or between the Gospels? I offer a hypothesis that explains this.

To ‘prove’ such a hypothesis is a judgment of probability based on how adequately a hypothesis accounts for the data. The way to engage critically with this form of historical argument is (a) negatively, to show that the hypothesis does not account adequately for the data or that it is inconsistent with other known data, (b) positively, to offer another hypothesis that accounts better for the data (or, at least, equally well).

This is the kind of discussion - often at a very sophisticated, nuanced and detailed level - that goes on all the time in NT scholarship, as well as in other fields. NT scholarship differs only in that in many cases the discussion is more intensive and extensive, so that in fact all the possibilities are weighed more rigorously than in some other fields of ancient history where far fewer scholars are at work”.
Cf. Bauckham’s first response here.

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36 Comments:

At 12/13/2006 6:43 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

Only an hypothesis?

Well, what is the point of that?

Anybody can put forward any hypothesis they like. It is a free country.

What is needed are facts to test them with.

And the hypothesis that Christians 'searched the scriptures; (a la Acts 17) is an hypothesis that can be tested by seeing where the Gospel writers got many of their details of the miracle stories from - from the LXX

 
At 12/13/2006 7:07 PM, Anonymous Thuloid said...

I'm not at all sure why Bauckham bothered to respond to you, Steven--such patience. Despite certain superficial indicators of comprehension, on close reading it's fairly clear that you don't have the foggiest grasp of the meanings of certain basic terms and concepts in historical methodology (for example, hypothesis).

Furthermore, you seem incapable of addressing a narrowly focused point--your hobby horse is to always, regardless of relevance or chance of success, drag in as many issues regarding the historicity of the New Testament as you can manage. Do you think this is earning you points toward Evangelical Atheist Heaven, or what?

I'm trying to write this post without employing the words "imbecilic," "cartoon character" or "profound waste of time", but I'm afraid it just isn't coming together without them. Ah, well. Evidently I'm not so infinitely patient.

 
At 12/13/2006 7:17 PM, Anonymous Jim said...

Indeed- such patience. In fact, a spitting in the wind. Steve has demonstrated himself to be utterly unwilling to listen whilst always being more than willing to say- nothing. When Steven has published something that has received some semblance of scholarly acclaim, perhaps he can come back and share with us his views. Until then, sadly, he remains a soldier in the army of dilettantism.

 
At 12/13/2006 7:56 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

Once more, personal abuse is the stock in trade of people who know that they cannot produce evidence for their views.

Meanwhile, there is documented evidence for the idea that these 'eyewitness' details were cribbed from the pages of the LXX

See Miracles and the Book of Mormon for details.

 
At 12/13/2006 8:13 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

Is Jim the Jim West who wrote Paidion about Chrismas stories, where the eight-day old child of Luke 2:21 is called a παιδιον

Jim explains that a παιδιον (as used in Luke 2:21 to describe an 8 day old boy) is ' Not an infant (as in Luke) but a very young child, a toddler. A toddler is older than an infant...'

I found that article of Jim's very informative.


He explains about 'brephos'- 'The meaning is quite clear- this word is used of the newest of the newborn.'


Luke used brephos earlier to describe Jesus and παιδιον in verse 21 to describe Jesus.

And a παιδιον is indeed older than a brephos. About 8 days older...

Enough to become an infant, a toddler? Not in the eyes of this dilettant!

 
At 12/13/2006 10:10 PM, Anonymous Apolonio said...

Steven seems to have missed the point Bauckham is making.

But anyway, my favorite part of the book so far is chapters 10-12. There are some things that I think needs to be refined such as the part about anonymous characters in the Markan passion narrative. I need to read it more carefully though just as to see I am not misinterpreting him.

As for reading it within Catholic theology, here is a "sneak peak" of what I am trying to get at: 1) the apostolicity of the Church and 2) Papal Primacy and collegiality. Again I still need to read it more carefully before I blog some things on it. Maybe after my finals.

 
At 12/13/2006 10:33 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

Bauckham's point, presumably, is that statements such as these are hypothetical - 'The Gospel writers were careful only to name those who were known as eyewitnesses of specific events, even when this left the edges of the narrative unpolished.'

They are not to be confused with established facts.

 
At 12/13/2006 11:25 PM, Anonymous Apolonio said...

Steven,

I don't want to be mean or anything, but I don't understand your point. "Chris was playing chess on 12/13/06" is a historical hypothesis. Now if it fits the evidence (ex. Cal saw Chris playing chess, Bobby saw Chris playing chess, etc), then it is probably the case that he was playing chess. This does not mean it cannot be an established fact. In fact, scientific established facts were once hypothesis (ex. evolution or at least micro-evolution). "The earth rotates around the sun" was a hypothesis that is now a fact.

Anyway, for a much more substantial "criticism," I was hoping that Bauckham went into the epistemology of testimony more. But that is because epistemology is my main subject in philosophy. I am an anti-reductionist so I pretty much agree with Bauckham, although it would be interesting how a Bayesian approach would look like. I recommend Alvin Goldman's Knowledge in a Social World on this issue (I'm thankful that I had the chance to be part of his social epistemology course).

 
At 12/14/2006 7:11 AM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

Bauckham has chided me for wanting his hypotheses to be tested against data.

Besides, it is an established fact that these so-called eyewitness details were cribbed from the Old Testament.

See Miracles for details

 
At 12/14/2006 9:37 AM, Anonymous Simon said...

Steven wrote:

Besides, it is an established fact that these so-called eyewitness details were cribbed from the Old Testament.

I think you'll find this is what known as a hypothesis!

Restating Thuloid, it's fairly clear that you don't have the foggiest grasp of the meanings of certain basic terms and concepts in historical methodology (for example, hypothesis).

Now that is a FACT!

 
At 12/14/2006 11:33 AM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

Luke copies out whole sentences from the LXX, in his account of the raising of the widow of Nain's son.

For example, he copies 'kai edoeken auton te metri autou'

This is a fact, not an hypothesis. My web page even has photographs of this so-called 'hypothesis'.

 
At 12/14/2006 2:22 PM, Anonymous James Crossley said...

Chris, I'm being very, very lazy here but as you are so nice and as it is Christmas could you tell me if Richard Bauckham deals with eyewitnesses and miracles in his book.

 
At 12/14/2006 5:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

THERE IS NO GOD

deal with it people

 
At 12/14/2006 6:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous has gifted us with some confrontational "kakangelism" above.

 
At 12/14/2006 8:11 PM, Anonymous Jim said...

To Anonymous:

There is no one who is anonymous people- deal with it!

 
At 12/14/2006 8:11 PM, Anonymous Jim said...

This one I'm calling- why Steven will never listen: a haiku

rain falling slowly
an empty drum beaten
to no avail- sad!

 
At 12/15/2006 12:15 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Steven, it seems you are in a muddle about this issue - read through your comments on this thread again. I suggest you look at a work on historical hypotheses, how they are treated, tested etc.

For example, you write: 'Bauckham has chided me for wanting his hypotheses to be tested against data.'

This Totally misunderstands Bauckham with a capital T! This demonstrates that you don't seem to undersatnd what is going on. He certainly does expects his hypothesis to be tested against the data.

Ergo, I think Richard hit the nail on the head by raising this issue in reponse to your comments.

Hi James, it's an honour to have you visit my blog and clog up my comments space!

"could you tell me if Richard Bauckham deals with eyewitnesses and miracles in his book"

Yes, he does. What in particular where you interested in?

Hi Anon,
Thanks for the breaking news - I'd never thought of that before. Crikey, I'd better go and rethink everything ...

 
At 12/15/2006 7:17 AM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

How does Bauckham intend to test his hypothesis that 'The Gospel writers were careful only to name those who were known as eyewitnesses of specific events...'

Easy.

All he has to do is provide evidence that the women at the crucifixion were known to be eyewitnesses of the events, or evidence that Bartimaeus existed.

I look forward to such evidence.



How does he intend to test his hypothesis that Bartimaeus died in between Mark writing and Matthew writing?

I look forward to actual, real data being produced, rather than arguments from silence.

One interesting argument from Bauckham comes from page 259 of Bauckham's book 'Gospel Women'.

Bauckham argues that the story of the women visiting the tomb must be credible because women were considered unreliable witnessses in the 1st century AD.

Bauckham writes 'The role of the women must have been already so well established in the tradition that no Gospel writer could simply supress it...'

Bauckham says 'The Gospel writers have reduced and played down the role of the women' (How does Bauckham know that?)

Poor Gospel writers. They would have loved to cut out all the stories of Jesus appearing to women after the resurrection (like Paul did), but journalistic honesty compelled them to leave them in.


Matthew , of course, supresses the stories of the disciples visiting the empty tomb. By Bauckham's logic, the stories of the disciples visiting the empty tomb was not well established..


And, of course, we can see that many of these so-called eyewitness details were got by searching ths scriptures a la Acts 17.

 
At 12/15/2006 7:22 AM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

If Bauckham can read so much into named being dropped from stories. why does Luke drop the name of 'Galilee' from his stories of resurrection appearances?

We can apply Bauckham's hypothesis (that Gospel writers dropped names that were not well known), and deduce that by the time of Luke writing, the stories of resurrection appearances in Galilee were no longer widespread.

 
At 12/15/2006 2:17 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Steven, you are mixing elemments of Bauckham's hypothesis with the evidence he is attempting to explain. You need to grasp the bigger picture of the hypothesis, first - and that will mean buying the book!

 
At 12/15/2006 8:46 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

I quote Bauckham's post 'We have certain data (in this case some aspects of the text of the Gospels)...'

His only data that he is testing his hypothesis against, is that , for example, Matthew and Mark name Jairus, but Luke doesn't.

And one Gospel writer names Salome, while another doesn't.

So what is the status of Bauckham's statement 'The Gospel writers were careful only to name those who were known as eyewitnesses of specific events...'

Is it an hypothesis? Is it data? Is it plucked from the air?

If the book is like 'Gospel Women', which claims that Gospellers could only suppress stories if they were not part of a well known tradition, when Matthew suppresses the stories of the disciples visiting the tomb, then it could be very useful :-)

But , of course, Bauckham's rule that something which was 'already so well established in the tradition that no Gospel writer could simply supress it' is nothing more than an ad hoc hypothesis , made up for the purposes of arguing something when it suits, and ready to be dropped when it does not suit.

There is no methodology, other than ad hoc hypotheses.

Bauckham's hypothesis is , in the classic phrase 'not even wrong'.

 
At 12/15/2006 10:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steven,

Why do you, an atheist spend so much time discussing things that you do not believe in? It is more than a little ironic that some God-obsessed atheists think more about their Maker than some professing Christians!

If for you, belief in God is really akin to belief in the tooth fairy, why bother with your endless comments on Christian blogs? It's all a bit pointless isn't it, devoting your life to discussing a non-entity? Or is your obsession with him an indication that he is more real to you than you would like to admit?

 
At 12/16/2006 2:18 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

"is nothing more than an ad hoc hypothesis"

Not at all. It helps to explain teh data like none other has even seriously attempted.

"made up for the purposes of arguing something when it suits, and ready to be dropped when it does not suit"

How on earth did you reach this conclusion?

"There is no methodology, other than ad hoc hypotheses"

Can you suggest a hypothesis that better explains the data, that is the key. Bauckham's is certainly not ad hoc, by the way.

Seems like you are splipping into 'what an idiot the opponent is' type rhetoric again. But it doesn't help your cause at all.

"Is it an hypothesis? Is it data? Is it plucked from the air?"

This is why it will be importnat for you to read an introductory work on historical hypotheses, as mentioned a while ago, as then you'll be able to answer your own question, one which I think shows the muddle in your thinking all too clearly.

 
At 12/16/2006 2:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is there a Cliff's Notes for this thread? Whoever Bauckman is, he's obviously smart. Whoever Carr is, he's obviously looking for his fifteen minutes of fame among those who consistently see him as a fool.

For anyone here to come to agreement is about as likely as Fr. Richard McBrien appearing in an on-going series for EWTN.

 
At 12/16/2006 2:45 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

'Can you suggest a hypothesis that better explains the data, that is the key. '

Mark and Matthew mention the name Jairus. Luke doesn't.

This is a non-problem.

Or at least one of those contingent things from history, from which no overriding principles can be deduced.

It is just a silence.

There are much bigger silences in the Gospels.

Why does Matthew suppress the stories of the disciples visiting the empy tomb?

Why does Luke suppress the stories of the resurrection appearances in Galilee?

As you have utterly convinced me that Bauckham does not engage in ad hoc hypothesis, I know that his rule 'already so well established in the tradition that no Gospel writer could simply supress it', must be a general rule, not an ad hoc hypothesis, wheeled out whenever it suits him to say it.

So apply Bauckham's 'rule' to the three Gospellers who suppressed the stories of the saints resurrecting, and the story of the Roman guards at the tomb.



And, of course, we already know that these 'eyewitness' details of the miracle stories were got by searching the LXX . See Miracles for details.


Intriguing that Chris skips over the personal abuse directed at me, and makes up claims that I am engaging in personal abuse.

I am not. I am pointing out the ad hoc nature of the methodology applied.

And the lack of evidence for this hypothesis - 'The Gospel writers were careful only to name those who were known as eyewitnesses of specific events...'

If you want personal abuse of Bauckham, read Dr. Jim West's attack on the Professors at St. Andrews University.

It can be read at Lazy students or arrogant professors - which is it?

Needless to say, I don't agree with it. - 'Ivory tower biblical scholars' - who could he mean???

 
At 12/16/2006 2:47 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

More personal abuse on this thread, this time from 'Cranky'

I know what Christian love is, so it does not bother me.

What bothers me is not ever seeing any evidence for 'The Gospel writers were careful only to name those who were known as eyewitnesses of specific events...'

 
At 12/16/2006 4:40 PM, Anonymous Jim said...

Mr Carr without doubt is one of the most incompetent readers in human history. He clearly misrepresents both what I said and the purpose of my comments on Adversaria's posting concerning St Andrews.

As any clear eyed reader will see, I did not accuse the faculty of St Andrews of anything. Rather, I urged the simple truth that both faculty and students should be concerned with learning rather than dogmatically holding to their own viewpoints.

Mr Carr, completely unacquainted with the purpose of scholarship is incapable, however, of understanding such simple things.

Indeed, in seeing his postings in various and sundry places I can only conclude that he is operating with something of a semi-severe mental handicap and so is deserving of our pity.

 
At 12/16/2006 4:42 PM, Anonymous Jim said...

Oh, and finally, since Mr Carr is utterly unable to comprehend argument or discuss rationally, it seems best if, speaking only for myself, any sort of dialogue with him come to an end.

 
At 12/16/2006 6:25 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

Here is what Jim West (the man who said an eight day old child was a paidion and this means an infant, a toddler) wrote the following :-

'Do not miss the fascinating post over on Adversaria about Biblical scholarship at St. Andrews University. A true eye opener.

My response:

I’m not sure who comes off worse- the ivory tower biblical scholars or the students.

Scholars have a responsibility to teach their students to think for themselves and not simply vomit back what they want to hear.'

'vomit back'? 'A real eye-opener' 'ivory tower biblical scholars'????

Are these really the words of somebody not accusing anybody of anything?

Why was the post such an 'eye-opener', if it simply confirmed that the teaching at St. Andrews is top notch? (As I'm sure it is, after all I already said I disagrees with what West wrote about professors 'vomiting back' stuff)

 
At 12/16/2006 6:31 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

Mark and Luke name the demon that Jesus drove out in Matthew 8.

Matthew, of course, drops the name.

Does this mean the story came from an eyewitness called Legion, who was a well known figure in the Christian circles that Mark and Luke were writing to, but who was not well known to Matthew's readers?

 
At 12/18/2006 1:47 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Your hypothesis

It is just a silence

Well, this doesn't explain the data as well as Bauckham's hypothesis, and it is not just these names he is concered with either, it covers a far broader scope of material in a way that appropriately fits the data remarkably well (not just in this chapter pf the book). Besides, Bauckham's case also shows why names were not mentioned precisely when one would have expected them. The absence of the names, in places, thus provokes an explanation as it makes the narrative unnecessarily rough. Your own hyothesis fails to convince as Bauckham's does. It is far less satisfactory.

"Intriguing that Chris skips over the personal abuse directed at me, and makes up claims that I am engaging in personal abuse. "

I cannot reply to everyone on this thread, not with so many comments. I was addressing you. And please don't confuse Christian love with being nice.

And made up? My words claimed that you were slipping into 'what an idiot the opponent is' type rhetoric again. I think my hypothesis macthes the data in this thread very appropriately.

 
At 12/18/2006 6:49 PM, Anonymous Steven Carr said...

So how does Bauckham's hypothesis that names were retained if they were known as eyewitnesses, otherwise dropped, explain the data that Matthew drops the name Legion?

This is a non-problem, isn't it? Just as Matthew dropping the name 'Jairus' is also a non-problem.

Of course, Bauckham's hypothesis 'explains' the data. How could an ad hoc hypothesis not explain the data?

Just as epicycles explained the data about Venus and Mars. It is called 'saving the appearances'. Bauckham's hypothesis relies on a vast number of epicycles.

The question is, what evidence does he have for his hypothesis.

None , it seems. Or else you would have refuted me by now.

The lack of serious argument coming back at me is very, very reassuring.

An inductive (not ad hoc) case can me made that these eyewitness details were cribbed from the OT.

See Miracles for details.

It is inductive , because it relies on general rules, also used by Christians to examine certain stories in the Koran and the Book of Mormon.

And there is evidence for it , because we know that early Christians searched the scriptures to see what they revealed about Jesus.

 
At 12/18/2006 7:18 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Steven, the "lack of serious argument coming back at" you is indicative that many of your points aren't serious enough to bother with. The Legion business, for example.

 
At 12/18/2006 7:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a different Carr. I am amased at your collective patience! Anyhow, thanks for a fascinating intro to a fascinating study.

To my surnamesake, the more you protest the less likely anyone is to read your blog...

 
At 12/19/2006 9:40 PM, Anonymous Alan said...

Chris,
I just got my copy of Jesus and the Eyewitnesses and thanks to your posts I have been able to dip my toes into the water prior to reading it.

Steven,
Before you dismiss Bauckham's hypothesis it might be wise to actually read the book. How can you really refute the arguments if you have not read them in light of all the supporting evidence and qualifications.
Also, why don't you respond by writing a book review. This would give you at least one leg to stand on. As well as give you an opportunity to provide a less emotional reponse.

 
At 12/20/2006 12:28 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

My pleasure, Sam.
Thanks for your comment, Alan. To buy the book and read it is indeed the most importnat thing to do when debating it like this.

 

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