Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My biblical-studies colloquium questions to Bauckham

Below are my questions to Richard Bauckham about his book, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Having worked rather closely with the work, I have plenty more thoughts and questions, but I've chosen a few from my list that may also encourage further discussion with the other members of this discussion group.

You can find my post on the biblical-studies discussion list, and if Bauckham is kind enough to respond to my questions, you may find them also on the list in due time.

1) My first point relates to believing the miraculous. You speak of the 'inherently memorable' nature of much of the Jesus tradition, with a nod to the believed reality of the extraordinary and 'supernatural' events like the resurrection and the miracle stories. While I personally have no problem with this faith stance – it is one I share – many will, of course, protest that to speak of the 'inherently memorable' nature of these events as if they were reporting real miraculous events is to import a unverifiable faith judgment into a historical argument, a move that wouldn't be allowed in other historical disciplines. Many rationalists and naturalists will simply argue that we can no more trust the Gospel accounts of such supposed events any more than the bizarre stories in other premodern literature such as the Apostle Peter's resurrecting of the smoked fish in the apocryphal Acts of Peter or the piecing together of the torn-to-shreds St Aelhaiarn in mediaeval hagiography. While I understand that your book was not the place to justify your perspective on these matters in any depth, how would you respond to this line of reasoning?

2) While on the subject of remembering Jesus tradition, do you think there is more room to develop your argument in light of deliberate mnemonic techniques such as the loci system as mentioned in Pseudo-Cicero's Rhetorica ad Herennium?

3) Confidence in the inclusio. Probably not all will be convinced by the supposed presence of the inclusio. Some will no doubt protest that it is overly subtle to be plausible. While I am generally convinced by your arguments for the presence of this inclusio, I am a little uncomfortable when you employ the inclusio so confidently elsewhere in the book. For example, in providing reasons in support of Papias' statements concerning the origin of Mark's Gospel, you argue that the inclusio 'is probably the most important reason for reconsidering Papias' evidence' (204). But is the case you make for the inclusio strong enough to serve as the foundation for another hypothesis, especially as the inclusio lacks explanatory power for the material in Matthew's Gospel?

4) Do you think there is any significance for your argument in the related mixture of themes found in Hebrews? Namely: i)
the importance of eyewitness testimony and the implied chain of transmission in 2:3 ('It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him'), ii) the presence of 'Synoptic-like "historical Jesus" titbits (e.g. 2:18; 4:15; 5:7-9 – The Temptation and Gethsemane, the beginning and end of Jesus' public career?)' (I here cite Michael Pahl), and iii) the evidence of the 'testimony' theme within Hebrews (cf. Heb 2:4, 6; 3:5; 7:8; 10:15, 28).

5) You write on page 3: 'Among current historical Jesuses on offer there is the Jesus of Dominic Crossan, the Jesus of Marcus Borg, the Jesus of N. T. (Tom) Wright, the Jesus of Dale Allison, the Jesus of Gerd Theissen and many others. The historian's judgment of the historical value of the Gospels may be minimal, as in some of these cases, or maximal, as in others, but in all cases the result is a Jesus reconstructed by the historian, a Jesus attained by the attempt to go back behind the Gospels and, in effect, to provide an alternative to the Gospels' constructions of Jesus'.

What would research into the historical Jesus look like in light of your thesis, then, especially as you allow for a good deal of interpretive development in the Jesus traditions and you yourself deal with various testimonies, e.g. that of Papias, in a selective manner such that you accept parts and reject other elements of the testimony (practicing what you preach in relation to the dialectic of trust and critical assessment). And why do you think Tom Wright - who doesn't practice a comprehensive mistrust of the Gospels and is perhaps only as selective as you were with, say, Papias' statements - is 'attempting to go back behind the Gospels ... to provide an alternative to the Gospels' constructions of Jesus'?

I'd be interested to hear what Chrisendom readers think about the issues raised in these questions.


At 5/23/2007 2:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Chris,

Some very good questions. Will you be posting his responses here?

John McBryde

At 5/23/2007 3:47 PM, Anonymous Jeremy Priest said...

1. As far as the miraculous, I would think there would be some judgment on the Gospels as truly eye-witness testimony, versus these other writings you mention in your question like the apocryphal Acts of Peter. This doesn't give you a wholesale right to believe every supernatural event without considering other narrative issues like genre and purpose. In this there's also the canonical issue that these witnesses were believed, it seems, from the very beginning. Other writing may have caught on here or there, but died off somewhere along the line.

2. I'm not familiar with the 'loci system'--missed that one.

5. I too was a bit puzzled with Tom Wright's inclusion in that group. But, even if we accept the Gospels as eye-witness testimony, there are still historical questions that perdure and Wright takes those questions seriously and, in a sense, 'looks behind' to see what the connecting points are. I think if we put him in the category of 'historian' (where he places himself as well), then there have to be some some "minimal" reconstructions that take place. In that way I think Bauckham's statement can be understood.

At 5/23/2007 10:33 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi John, I will post the response here, yes.

Hi Jeremy,
Thanks for your helpful thoughts.
The loci system is summarised here


Post a Comment

<< Home