The welcome return of Danny Z
A run in with Danny Z. Always fun. Here goes.
But I must agree with James in part on this — the belief in the miraculous takes us out of the realm of historical inquiry. I am in partial ignorance on this subject as I did not hear the ensuing discussion, but have read Bauckham’s book and Crossley’s paper. I appreciate Crossley’s ‘though experiment’ as it were, and think it has validity to it. But in my mind, he is specifically asking us to move from history to theology.
Actually I was not quite doing that in the paper. I wasn't asking anyone to move anywhere. I was asking for an answer as to how history should now be seen if Bauckham was right.
When you force Christian scholars to make that move, don’t be mad if they answer they believe miracles can occur — you have asked them to move from a historical judgment to a philosophical/theological judgment! I nowhere got the impression in Jesus and the Eyewitnesses that he is claiming miracles are real — only that we need to trust that this is what the eyewitnesses believe they saw happen.
Indeed. I'm not remotely mad if Christian scholars believe miracles (I don't remotely care either - for the philosophical issues, that is) can occur. And, of course, no such claims about the miraculous were made in the book. But it is still a big claim to imply eyewitnesses to miracles. If true (and hence what if) then what did they see? Did they all really believe they saw water turn into wine, a man walking on water and calming the elements and so on? Or was something else going on? But I also added - and this is important - this question: could eyewitnesses have made stories up about e.g. the miraculous. After all, this kind of creative storytelling seemed to be common enough in the ancient world.
Having admitted that discussion of miracles is out of the realm of history proper, it is likewise just as disastrous, in my opinion, to let the secular world-view dismiss them. These are still solid and well attested historical happenings in the Jesus tradition.Oh no you don't! I would word this differently: they are well attested and therefore early. That does not equal historical happenings.
Want even more?
And stop comparing these miracle stories to other ancient ones. Yes we have some examples, but do we have such a high concentration of miracle stories in various forms surrounding one individual? Not that I am aware of.
I'm not sure if this works at all. We stop comparing similiar issues in the ancient world because they are not 100% like-for-like? And does it mean that the higher the concentration of miracles stories are, the more likely they are to be...what?...genuine miracles? What about the figure with the second highest concentration of miracles in the ancient world?
Can we all get over the fact that someone gave a whooping call after Bauckham said his bit on miracles? It happened, so be it. That person doesn’t represent all of us Christians, nor did it represent Bauckham. The person vocally agreed with Bauckham, big deal. Everyone who knows that person already knew their faith bias, now a whole room knows.Firstly, I don't know of anyone who said this person represented Bauckham or all (!) Christians. It certainly does not represent the evangelicals I know from conferences. A certain kind of Christian, maybe. But it was more than this. Several people in the audience noted the strange (to people like me) audience and the support. The hardcore evangelical mentioned on a previous post noted it too. It wasn't just one. The worry for me is that there were people present (see previous post) who have no concern for critical approaches and that excludes not only me but people like Danny too. Now, hopefully (I'll admit that much) these people are only a minority but if not then that is a worry in terms of the impact on the discipline.
I am mortified by some of the things I hear from Hector Avalos, but I don’t assume James Crossley or Jacques Berlinerblau thinks the same thing and therefore dismiss them because of it!
I'm not quite sure what this parallels. Given the above, I certainly don't think that one over enthusiastic evangelical represents Christians or evangelicals!
I went to the secular section that James Crossley read at for the previous SBL. I heard quite a bit of laughter and ‘vocal’ smirks at some of the jabs the presenters took at evangelical scholars in general and particular (*cough cough* N. T. Wright *cough cough*). Was this professional just because all of the presenters took the “high ground” of the secular world-view and therefore were justified in the unprofessionalism? Of course not.
I still think there needs to be some answer to the idea of dead saints rising and living etc and it is hardly surprising that a secular group found this very bizarre. But that's not the point. I keep firing at people such as those who think critical scholars (in this case those who opposed Bauckham) are vultures (for merely disagreeing - though I didn't even go that far). Now the chances of openly non-believing scholars influencing scholarship are slim at the moment I think it is fair to say. The chances of evagelical influence are much higher. True this needs proof (I'd endorse Jacques Berlinerblau's call for a census to see if we can find out). If there were utter secular dominance on the horizon then that would have a serious impact on the discipline. But it just isn't.
And the Bauckham session wasn't an evengelical or Christian session (that would be the better analogy to the secular session). It was a critical review of a work of critical scholarship. Now if it were in a church setting or an apologetics session then I could hardly complain. But it wasn't and some of us are just worried that sections of the strange audience were not a one off.
Getting near the end...
Let’s get a dose of reality — we are all human beings with opinions and presuppositions that always will taint our work to some degree and even activate our vocal chords in (gasp!) professional settings on occassion.
Doesn't everyone agree on that old question of presuppositions these days? It's not really about vocal chords it is about what Danny says elsewhere: the ways in which presuppositions are tainting or influencing a professional context. I also suspect that there was a bit of shock on behalf of those like me who are not used to what sounds suspiciously happy, clappy churchy (well, you know what I mean, add the technical term yourselves)...
As for the epic Meier quotation, I'll be brief:
no matter what the evidence may be, a particular action of Jesus could not possibly have been a miracle is a philosophical judgment, not a historical one. And the agnostic has no more right to impose his or her philosophical worldview on the whole conclave than does a believing Catholic or Protestant.
Well, fair enough but just for the record I have never once advocated the imposition of a secular, agnostic, atheist or whatever worldview. That's why my arguments in the past have not been about banning, censoring or anything like that but about getting different perspectives in to add questions and challenge assumptions.
Just to be cheeky:
And stop comparing these miracle stories to other ancient ones.
Who is imposing here?!!
As ever, over to you Danny