Rule #1 of Historical Reasoning

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spin
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What Happens When We Ignore Rule #1

Post by spin » Sun Oct 08, 2017 12:50 am

To answer "What Happens When We Ignore Rule #1": we are back umm, telling stories... based on tradition.

Without primary sources we don't have ways to fathom the veracity of tradition. That doesn't make those stories wrong per se, just currently unusable for historical purposes. No?
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Re: What Happens When We Ignore Rule #1

Post by Peter Kirby » Sun Oct 08, 2017 1:27 am

spin wrote:
Sun Oct 08, 2017 12:50 am
Without primary sources we don't have ways to fathom the veracity of tradition. That doesn't make those stories wrong per se, just currently unusable for historical purposes. No?
The OP and the cited example therein set the stage for a resounding "no."

It may not be the only way to get to that no, but it looks like a convincing one.
neilgodfrey wrote:
Thu Oct 05, 2017 11:55 pm
But what happens when the historian has no primary sources? That is, when no documents from the person/period being studied survive although the historian does have much later purported copies of primary sources?

For example. Josephus writing in Roman times quotes what he claims is correspondence between the second century BCE Seleucid persecutor of the Jews, Antiochus IV (Epiphanes), and Samaritans. Is it legitimate for a historian to use Josephus's "record" of this correspondence as primary source material for the actual events of the second century BCE?

The answer, I believe, is found in Elias Bickerman's analysis of Josephus's narrative, "A Document Concerning the Persecution by Antiochus IV Epiphanes" in Studies in Jewish and Christian
History
, 2007, pp. 376-407.

Bickerman goes into very detailed argument to establish a reasonable case that the historian is indeed justified in using Josephus's record as a genuine copy of original correspondence dating from the time of Antiochus IV. His arguments is based on several lines of evidence:
  • archaeological evidence supporting originality of the correspondence in Josephus's work and providing details highly unlikely to have been known in the time of Josephus;
  • misunderstandings by Josephus in his use of the letters that demonstrate an ignorance of practices alluded to in the letters that passed from usage in the Roman era;
  • anachronistic references by Josephus that demonstrate a failure to understand the original context of the correspondence;
  • other examples of genuine and forged correspondence used as controls in Bickerman's argument;
  • the extraordinary difficulties a forger would have had in getting specific details correct -- formulae appropriate to a narrow geographical and chronological range; accurate dating despite many potential chronological traps such as years beginning differently from one city to another, -- as they are in the correspondence cited by Josephus.
Bickerman concludes his argument for authenticity of the correspondence by addressing the possibility that
a forger was skilful enough to fabricate, one or two hundred years later, an impeccable document dated to 166 B.C.E. His diligence would not have done him any good; indeed, it would actually have detracted from the plausibility of his work, because if his readers were to be tricked into accepting it, they needed a document drawn up in the terms with which they were familiar, i.e. in the style of their own historical period. This explains the remarkable fact that forgers in antiquity normally employed the official formulae of their own period when they produced their texts.
In other words, Bickerman is very aware of the absolute necessity to establish a source as a "primary source" in order to use it as a basis for a historical reconstruction of the period being investigated.

I confess I was at first very suspicious of Bickerman's historical methods. The first work of his I read was God of the Maccabees in which he baldly stated, at one point, that we have various sources from the Seleucids pertaining to the Maccabean revolt. It was only after reading his justifications for this claim (as in the article discussed in this post) that I backed down and gave his argument some credence.

What Bickerman has given historians is a very solid argument. He has not given them primary sources. But he has given historians reasons to have some degree of confidence that they do have access to primary sources. That means any argument based on these primary sources must necessarily remain hypothetical, always with awareness that the sources upon which the argument is based are conclusions of argument, hypotheses, and not the "hard facts" as we have with coins or stone monuments or preserved clay tablets, etc. Bickerman's "primary sources" will, like any and all primary sources, remain open to question and challenge. After all, that's what Mark Day (like many other historians) calls for: a constant testing and evaluation of the historian's source material.)

Bickerman's use of the documents as cited in Josephus are not a shoddy licence to make easy excuses for "making do with what we have or else we cannot do the history we want to do" type of unprofessional, unscholarly approach.
Underlining specifically to highlight your "without primary sources" and the references to not "having" "primary sources."
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Re: What Happens When We Ignore Rule #1

Post by spin » Sun Oct 08, 2017 2:41 am

Peter Kirby wrote:
Sun Oct 08, 2017 1:27 am
spin wrote:
Sun Oct 08, 2017 12:50 am
Without primary sources we don't have ways to fathom the veracity of tradition. That doesn't make those stories wrong per se, just currently unusable for historical purposes. No?
The OP and the cited example therein set the stage for a resounding "no."

It may not be the only way to get to that no, but it looks like a convincing one.
neilgodfrey wrote:
Thu Oct 05, 2017 11:55 pm
{omitted}
Underlining specifically to highlight your "without primary sources" and the references to not "having" "primary sources."
For me, Bickerman found a primary source in an unusual place.
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Re: Rule #1 of Historical Reasoning

Post by MrMacSon » Sun Oct 08, 2017 3:43 am

For me, Bickerman found likely primary information in a an unusual way.

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Re: Rule #1 of Historical Reasoning

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun Oct 08, 2017 6:28 am

neilgodfrey wrote:
Sat Oct 07, 2017 10:24 pm
The conference papers to which you referred addressed the various calculations by later generations of the chronology of Buddha.
They addressed those calculations because they are the only information available to do what they were trying to do, which was to pinpoint dates for the Buddha (often even using the same terminology as biblical scholars do, "the historical Buddha"). One of the papers I linked you to, for example, concludes as follows: "Thus the year 483 should be accepted as the year in which the death of the Buddha took place. However, this date should only be taken as a close approximation to the real date rather than an exact date for the reasons specified above." Another concludes: "Thus, 397BCE may only be taken as a rough approximation to the year in which the Buddha expired."

I mean, really, "the year in which the Buddha expired," "the real date" — are those not claims about Gautama himself and not just about later tradents and the finesse of their calculations? This is way more than just classifying the traditions or whatnot. This is like saying, as biblical scholars sometimes do, that the historical Jesus was born in 4 BC in order to try to make sense of the Matthean and Lucan nativity stories, except that Matthew and Luke are far closer in time to their subject than the Indian and Buddhist chronicles are to theirs.
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Actually It's More Of A Guideline Than A Rule

Post by JoeWallack » Sun Oct 08, 2017 7:17 am

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ux8nTqyB6Bk

JW:
Interesting Thread. I get that Neil is just presenting what specific historians have to say about the need for primary source material in order to properly do historical work. I agree with Ben though that you can still make historical conclusions with little or no primary evidence, your conclusions though will just be accordingly weak.

Anyway, regarding a secondary source that may include primary source material, this reminds me of the Textual Criticism issue of copies/references of/to Patristic evidence. For Skeptical Textual Criticism The Difficult Reading Principle and Internal Evidence are the most important criteria so Patristic evidence is relatively less important. For Traditional Textual Criticism though External Evidence, including Patristic, is the most important criterion. Say for example, the Ending of GMark, Irenaeus of Lyons (yes, "Lyons"), is generally cited as the first clear evidence of the LE by both sides. Apologists inventory Irenaeus here as if it was an accurate copy equivalent to what was originally written in the 2nd century. Yet:
  • 1) The extant source is about 700 years after the original.

    2) Most extants are in a different language (Latin) than the original (Greek).

    3) Everyone agrees that the extant Latin was not copied from the original Latin and the degree of copying is unknown.

    4) Everyone agrees that with time and translation citations were moved to orthodox ones.
So by the criteria in this Thread extant Irenaeus likely fails as meeting the minimum standard for containing primary source material. So should the Skeptic exorcise it as evidence for LE? I don't think so. Just doubt it and give it less weight. Again, I get that Neil's point is presenting what specific historians say. I'm just disagreeing with what those historians say here (as presented by Neil). Sure, quality evidence is better than quantity evidence but at the same time, more quantity evidence is better than less quantity evidence. Exorcising all evidence that doesn't meet a minimum standard reminds me of Apologetics. Just adjust your conclusion or maybe don't even have one. Skepticism has to work both ways. You are Skeptical of the evidence but you are also skeptical about not using evidence.


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Re: Actually It's More Of A Guideline Than A Rule

Post by MrMacSon » Sun Oct 08, 2017 2:24 pm

JoeWallack wrote:
Sun Oct 08, 2017 7:17 am

Say for example, the Ending of GMark, Irenaeus of Lyons (yes, "Lyons"), is generally cited as the first clear evidence of the LE by both sides. Apologists inventory Irenaeus here as if it was an accurate copy equivalent to what was originally written in the 2nd century. Yet:
  1. The extant source is about 700 years after the original.
  2. Most extants are in a different language (Latin) than the original (Greek).
  3. Everyone agrees that the extant Latin was not copied from the original Latin and the degree of copying is unknown.
  4. Everyone agrees that with time and translation citations were moved to orthodox ones.
So by the criteria in this Thread extant Irenaeus likely fails as meeting the minimum standard for containing primary source material. So should the Skeptic exorcise it as evidence for LE? I don't think so ...

It would seem there is hardly any of the LE of Mark 16 in Irenaeus. There is supposedly a hint of Mark 16:17-18 in Adv Haers. 2.20.3 (but not explicitly), and there is Mark 16:9 in Adv Haers. 3.10.5; as much as a reflection of Ps 110.1 as anything.

Interestingly -

Irenaeus's 'use' of Mark 16:9 [in Adv Haers. 3.10.5].. together with Mark 1:2-3, is in fact the first ever instance of an explicitly named citation from any part of the second Gospel [ie. Mark] in extant patristic literature [the next supposedly being Clement of Alexandria]

Nicholas P. Lunn (2015) The Original Ending of Mark: A New Case for the Authenticity of Mark 16:9-20; pp. 82-3.

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Re: Actually It's More Of A Guideline Than A Rule

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun Oct 08, 2017 2:56 pm

MrMacSon wrote:
Sun Oct 08, 2017 2:24 pm
It would seem there is hardly any of the LE of Mark 16 in Irenaeus. There is supposedly a hint of Mark 16:17-18 in Adv Haers. 2.20.3 (but not explicitly), and there is Mark 16:9 in Adv Haers. 3.10.5; as much as a reflection of Ps 110.1 as anything.
One might even say that it is as much a reflection of Mark 16.19 as anything:

Also toward the conclusion of his gospel Mark says: "So then, after the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God," confirming what had been spoken by the prophet: "The Lord said to my Lord, 'Sit on My right hand, until I make Your foes Your footstool.'"

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Re: What Happens When We Ignore Rule #1

Post by neilgodfrey » Sun Oct 08, 2017 3:41 pm

Peter Kirby wrote:
Sun Oct 08, 2017 1:27 am
Underlining specifically to highlight your "without primary sources" and the references to not "having" "primary sources."
Yes, I found myself getting a little bit tangled as the discussion with Paul proceeded and I saw the need to distinguish between verbatim intellectual content of a primary source and the primary source as normally understood, writing on some physical substance that belongs to the time being researched. I think I drew upon my metadata specialist training from my library days and distinguished between intellectual content per se, that is, without its original "carrier".

I attempted to clarify the distinction in the following posts. For me, at any rate, the exercise was useful -- though I can understand it having no serious interest for many others. We are each on our own journey... :eh:
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Re: Rule #1 of Historical Reasoning

Post by neilgodfrey » Sun Oct 08, 2017 3:46 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sun Oct 08, 2017 6:28 am
This is like saying, as biblical scholars sometimes do, that the historical Jesus was born in 4 BC in order to try to make sense of the Matthean and Lucan nativity stories, except that Matthew and Luke are far closer in time to their subject than the Indian and Buddhist chronicles are to theirs.
No problem. But that's a very long way from doing "historical research" into the "life of the Buddha" -- or Jesus.

Yes, there are many areas in historical research that have been based on taken-for-granted (unchallenged) assumptions, and probably we will still find that "fault" in other fields of historical research, too. But that's a long way from doing research to reconstruct the life of Buddha in the way that many biblical scholars have seen fit to research the life of Jesus.

If scholars of Buddhism use the same methods as biblical scholars, relying upon criteriology, upon circularity to support their secondary sources, etc, then yes, they, too, are very naughty. But I don't know enough about them to say that that's what they are doing.
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