Response to a response
Doug Chaplain made a reponse to the previous post. He acknowledges the problem of responding to a paper not seen so let's keep up the oddity by responding back.
I would suggest that if we are talking about doing history, then first of all we need to note that “the miraculous” and “the supernatural” are anachronistic concepts with which we read the stories. They are not the ways in which the eyewitnesses and / or story-tellers narrated the powerful deeds they are talking about. Things attributed directly to acts of God or his messengers, human and angelic, occupy a spectrum that ranges from things we would now explain by other scientific or naturalistic narratives, through to things that we are unable to explain and therefore classify as (possibly fictive) miracles. It is, broadly speaking, we who distinguish the nature of the events, whereas they distinguished the degree of power or divine immediacy.
Yes, of course, and, as noted, there are ancient axceptions. But, those aside, this point is not a major point in terms of 'doing history'. If we are going to write a history of Christian origins and if we include the miraculous then we have to be pretty open that this odd in terms of conventional history, irrespective of 'anachronism' (that only makes the obvious point that the object of study aint 'us'). In terms of historical explanation, it matters little how 'they' read what we call the miraculous or supernatural. 'We' simply have to make the distinction (in terms of historical reconstruction). NOTE: I make no historical judgment here (or in the Bauckham paper).
Let us assume, for a moment, that continuing research into mind-body relationships allow us a better understanding of psychosomatic illness, which might well include such things as skin complaints (leprosy) and back problems (the paralytic). It is also conceivable that other acts of healing might find similar explanations. Our response then would be to move these events from one potential category to another, and what was hitherto thought of as miraculous becomes seen as naturalistic, and therefore “historical” within the post-Enlightenment frame of reference.
I made such a distinction in the Bauckham paper too.
Now I am not, generally, a fan of seeking naturalistic explanations for miracles. Too many of them seem to belong to taming the difficult and making scripture palatable for a particular philosophy. But it does seem to me that this example illustrates that there is not just a problem with the nature of the material, but also with our (alien) categorisation of it.
Yes and no. Healings and exorcisms do not have to be categorised as miraculous.
Good history, it seems to me, deals with what people narrate about what they saw, then with how they conceptualised its signification, and only then with how we appraise it. It does seem to me to be difficult, historically speaking, not to attribute the power of healing, for example, to Jesus.
I agree, just like other healers from Jewish, Hellenistic and countless other contexts. But the real question is: did people see the nature miracles?
(Before you say so, I know I haven’t touched on the different and more difficult question of the nature miracles.)
And therein lies the problem.
It does, however, seem to me that historians, precisely as historians,need to recognise that within the culture of the past, we need to see the common acceptance of acts of spiritual power as part and parcel of people’s lives, not as supernatural disruptions of ordinary existence.
I don't know of anyone who denies this as a general idea so is this a significant point?
Anyway, what I should stress again is that my paper was primarily directed at scholarly rhetoric and not whether this or that really happened. All I wanted to find out was whether Bauckham believed that there were eyewitness to miracles and that if this was the case it should be acknowledged that we would have to revolutionise the discipline of history. I was also curious whether Bauckham believed eyewitnesses could invent stories because of the implications this would have for understanding the gospel tradition. I barely offered a single criticism, hence the idea of a thought experiment: what if...Bauckham is right?