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Monday, September 26, 2005

First Blog Blood on Authenticity and Another Missing Post

I just wrote out a big response to Rafael and it happened again: the entry vanished. so if something appears that is similar you know why.

So here goes again.

Rafael said:

...the rhetoric of critical historiography in Jesus research. It seems, in some circles at least, that being a critical (= good) historian of Jesus requires us to judge some traditions about Jesus 'inauthentic'. Not that there is one tradition that must be considered inauthentic, but that a good scholar will think at least one tradition to give false information about Jesus. Anyone who doesn't is 'credulous' or 'uncritical' (= bad). But this seems, to me, as weak a position as the fundamentalist one that requires that we automatically, and beforehand, adjudge every tradition authentic.

Rather, it must surely be better (and more scholarly) to reserve judgement until after analysis. Relatedly, that analysis must not be solely focussed on the Jesus tradition, but also upon our own status as historians.

I found myself in broad agreement with Rafael and our disagreements were very minor ones. Now my 'but' here is with the bit above. If the so-called 'uncritical' scholar has carefully evaluated the entire gospel tradition and finds most of it authentic would this no be a little unlikely? Would the same degree of openness towards authenticity be extened to non-Christian traditions? Statistically, surely, at least some degree of the gospel material must tell us things that are nothing like what happened in the historic ministry, esp. given that Jewish and pagan traditions have lots of creative storytelling elements?

On another point Rafael repsonds to me and to be honest I don't actually think there is really much point of dispute. But I do on the following:

Here James would say that, for example, either Jesus was raised from the dead or he wasn't, so authenticity remains an analytically useful category. Yes, of course. And my point is not that authenticity is completely useless. But it seems to me that the example of the resurrection, especially, must be decided on other (e.g., philosophical) grounds. Unlike, for example, the question of whether Jesus thought of the kingdom as present or imminent, the question of the historicity of the resurrection is unlikely to be answered by textual analysis and determination of 'authenticity'.

Why must the example of the resurrection be decided on different grounds to the teaching on the kingdom? Either Jesus preached on the future kingdom or he did not. Either Jesus' dead body went the way of normal human beings or it did not. In theory (and I would say in practice) it must be the case that either Jesus' bones were there somewhere in some tomb on the fourth, fifth, six etc. days or Jesus was bodily raised. Why is that so different from the analysis of any other miraculous event? Again, the question arises: would spectacular events from non-Christian traditions be treated with that degree of respect or do we dismiss them as legends or fiction or whatever?

Now, Rafael is not going to let me get away wit all that so I await his response...

As I said on the existent/non-existent (I'm sure there's a lesson in there somewhere) post, history is all the rage among bloggers these days.


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