Thursday, May 24, 2007

Bauckham’s Response

As promised, here is Bauckham's response to my questions listed here. I will try to gather together all of the questions and all of Bauckham's responses at the end of the colloquium, marking those that were the most thought-provoking. Until then:

Bauckham's response to my first question

a) I should say that 'inherently memorable' doesn't only refer to miraculous events. Zacchaeus's meeting with Jesus must have been very memorable - it changed his life - but was not miraculous.

b) To go for common ground with historians who don't believe miracles possible, I would want to say that all historians should allow for inexplicable events. Very strange things do happen and are reliably witnessed. The historian should not wait for a scientific explanation before thinking that the evidence suggests an event he/she can't explain. I myself am not inclined to believe the events at Fatima a God-given miracle, but the evidence that something happened (mass hallucination?) cannot be dismissed. Of course some of the Gospel miracles - healings - may be explicable in psychosomatic terms, and almost everyone accepts that Jesus healed people.

c) But in the end I would say that as a historian open to the possibility of real miracles I should do my historical work on that basis, just as unbelieving historians would do it on their basis. What matters, of course, is to be upfront with one's presuppositions.

Bauckham's response to my second question

Someone has written something on Mark that does this (I can't now recall who where) - in the sense of arguing that Mark's Gospel is written so as to be memorable to oral performers by those means. He sees it as a feature of Mark's composition of his Gospel. It would be much more difficult to apply this to the oral sources behind the written Gospel, but it's worth considering.

Bauckham's response to my third question

On the actual quote (p 204) I do make it first of a list of three reasons, and a reader might put the three in a different order. So I don't think too much hangs on the degree of confidence one has in the inclusio at that point.

To those who don't find it plausible I would urge (and perhaps should have done this more clearly in the book) that (1) There are inclusios of many kinds all over the place in ancient literature. We're not used to noticing them but ancient readers were. (2) I think the first readers/hearers of the Gospels would have expected them to incorporate eyewitness testimony, and so they would be on the look-out for clues to whose eyewitness testimony is indicated. (3) The inclusio needs to be taken with the fact that Peter in Mark is not only first and last, but also named very frequently through the narrative. I take it that is part of this particular inclusion device. Even readers who didn't explicitly notice the inclusio device would have their impression of the Gospel strongly marked by the priority and frequency of reference to Peter, and at that point my arguments in chapter 7 also become important.

Someone has said that if Mark is based on Peter's testimony isn't it likely in any case that Peter would be the disciple named first and last. But this fails to take account of (a) the *emphatic* first reference, and (b) the fact that the last reference wouldn't necessarily be expected. But it also fails to account for Luke, who creates his own Petrine inclusio with material not taken from Mark.

The inclusio in Mark and Luke, especially, is important to my argument because I am arguing that the Gospels indicate their own eyewitness sources. A strong argument against eyewitness sources has been the Synoptic Gospels don't seem to be interested in eyewitness testimony. The argument could still be made without the inclusio, but the inclusio does make a major contribution to it.

Bauckham's response to my fourth question

Probably, but I'd need to consider this material carefully, as I haven't so far.

Bauckham's response to my fifth question

This is a big question, and relates to a couple of other questions I've answered. One of the problems of a project like Tom's is the coinherence of fact and meaning in testimony. This cannot really be carried over into an account of the historical Jesus of the usual kind. In Tom's case, I think what tends to happen is that it becomes very important to him to reconstruct Jesus' own self-understanding and views of what he was doing in his ministry, because these have to serve as the interpretative lens through which to construct a Jesus of significance. Jesus' self-understanding and intentions of course matter in the Gospels but the writers don't load them with all the burden of understanding what was going on.

There's a very interesting issue about historiography's dealing with testimony here. Think of events closer to our time for which historians have accounts in a variety of sources. E.g. an important battle, of which we have three or four accounts from different perspectives from participants on either side and in different relationships to what was going on. The standard modern historical way of dealing with this would be for the historian to extract from a critical study of the accounts some basic 'facts' and information that meets the particular interests he has in the battle, and then wrote his own account of the battle from a sort of heaven's eye view. But so much lost in this procedure! We miss understanding what it was really like for the involved participants. Their perspectives are dissipated and lost behind a historian's own reconstruction. Suppose, instead, the historian published the accounts themselves (or extracts, whatever might be appropriate) and used his expertise to help the readers really understand and enter into the several perspectives. This would be a much richer sort of history. The historian could add whatever he wanted by way of critical assessment and could also add ideas about how the accounts can help answer questions the historian has but they were not directly concerned with. But the key thing is that the witnesses accounts would not be superseded by the historian's construction. Another good example would be the life of Francis of Assisi, which resembles the Gospels case in that we have a variety of accounts that probably rely on different sources among the oral accounts of different disciples of Francis, accounts which also have their own slants on the significance of Francis. What does the hiostorian do with these?

I think we need to think more about the appropriate ways of dealing with historical material of the kind we have in the Gospels.


At 5/25/2007 7:03 PM, Anonymous Rob said...

Excellent. Thanks so much for this.


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