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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Response to Rohrbaugh

Some comments have been raised concerning Rohrbaugh’s grumpy but vaguely ok comments made about Why Christianity Happened. I’ve been ultra-busy of late but I’ve only some brief comments anyway. I’ve also got some more interesting football clips from You Tube that will follow shortly (much more interesting…)

Obviously he didn’t like something about my overtly secular perspective but I’m not too bothered about that. In fact, to widen this out I’m now just tired of people saying I deplore theology, religion, Christians etc. when I don’t, and have argued to the contrary in print (including WHC), that I barely respond these days. Instead, most frustrating is his dismissal of arguments he doesn’t agree with. Instead of providing reasons, he just gives some polemical off-hand opinion. These are not counter arguments, just opinion without argument (see also Danny Z’s comments...but I don’t see how Loren R can regard this as fair). I am a little confused here: are those of us who hold the view of a law-observant Jesus in Mark supposed to just change our minds because someone who doesn’t work in that area doesn’t agree??? There is no mention of what biblical Sabbath law Jesus-in-Mark might have broken (there isn’t one). And what about some mention of the logic of the transmission of impurity underlying hand-washing (and incidentally, washing hands is what keeps the food clean in purity law; cf. Mk 7:15, 19), and not to mention that Mark 7:18-19 does not make very good grammatical sense and certainly does not have to be taken to imply all food clean in the conventional sense (and certainly wasn’t automatically taken this way)? Jewish law (especially purity) is a very complex area (and to be fair he does give me high praise on this issue) and it is very frustrating when people who don’t look into it simply say the answers. This is probably no surprise, as research into the details of the Law for those outside the Jesus movement and the Christian movement may not hold up to some deeply held Christian and/or Western cultural views when used in relation to the gospel texts.

He gets too hung up on the title. That’s in the realm of publishers (I’m accepting of my boring titles and subtitles being regularly changed) and frankly it means little to me (unless it’s offensive or something like that, obviously). The Intro to WCH makes it crystal clear that the objective of the book is to explain how we get from observance of the law to non-observance. This also ties in with his strange comments on what I should have known about social-scientific literature (again no explanation is given). The stuff on networks is pretty comprehensive, particularly in the material from outside biblical studies. Loren thinks this might be a reference to the honour-shame stuff that has been arguably the major approach used by the Context Group, of which Rohrbaugh is a member. If so, I just do not see how this would fit in with a socio-historical explanation (as Jim West notes, there is no focus on the subtitle, so there is some missing of the point here) for shifts in non-observance. Other than that, I have no idea what he means and he really should have said if he thought such comments were worth making.

But I do worry that this might be a piece of polemic reserved for those who use social sciences but are not members of the Context Group. For all the good stuff done by the Context Group (I certainly do not set myself up against them: in fact I’m happy to use their stuff), there have been some odd comments (can’t remember who said it at the top off my head) dismissing Theissen’s and Meeks’ use of social sciences as not relevant!! Most of those doing social sciences outside of the CG (and some inside?) regard the work of Theissen and Meeks very highly. Obviously I like the stuff of Meeks and Theissen and I’m not if such polemic is helpful.


Blogger Josh McManaway said...

Fantastic response!

As far as the title goes: I've heard Ehrman went through the same thing with Misquoting Jesus. I can't remember his original title, but the publisher wanted the current one and then Ehrman ended up getting grilled in a review because of it.

April 05, 2007

Anonymous Jim said...

Yup- well said

April 06, 2007

Blogger Loren Rosson III said...

James, you raise a fair objection. Dick should have been more clear as to what he was getting at with the social-sciences remark.

April 06, 2007

Blogger Michael F. Bird said...

James, I think that the CG does have a slightly inflammed opinion of themselves and their significance. They also gave Dom Crossan a slap down at one SBL meeting I believe. Yes, some of us know too that you don't hate Christians (well at least not as much as you hate Margaret Thatcher anyway).

April 07, 2007

Blogger James Crossley said...

Thanks for all that. Josh, it is interesting that people trained in reading texts can spend time ignoring them in such contexts!! Mike, I've also read comments aimed strongly against Crossan andhis use of social sciences. There has also been some strong words exchanged between social sciences of those less inclined towards model based approaches and the model based approaches of the CG.

April 09, 2007

Blogger Anton J said...

Yes, I would agree with Michael Bird that the context group sometimes do appear to have a "slightly inflammed opinion of themselves". I have read quite a lot of the groups publications and have learned to take many of their interpretations with scepticism. Questionable sociological models are often superimposed on the NT texts with funny results. An example that always pops up in my head is Bruce Malina´s essay "Christ and time: Swiss or Mediterranean".
And in a time when it is so fashionable to see almost everything in the NT trough the lens of HONOR AND SHAME I find it refreshing to take heed from a scholar like Gerald Downing in his essay "Honor among exegetes" in Catholic biblical quarterly (jan 1999 issue).

PS And James, I finally got your book "Why Christianity happened" a couple of days ago. Inshallah I will comment on it and your book on Mark later

Antonio Jerez

April 12, 2007

Blogger James Crossley said...

Thanks for the comments and reference Antonio. And look forward to the further comments - could be fun!

April 12, 2007


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