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.