It's all yours (Was about a non-Nazareth indicator)

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neilgodfrey
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Re: It's all yours (Was about a non-Nazareth indicator)

Post by neilgodfrey » Sat Nov 25, 2017 3:09 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Nov 24, 2017 5:52 pm
Here you seem to be siding with the idea that Mark's doublets are the result of his own authorial creativity rather than the incorporating of prior sources. But why is this? Why does Occam side, in your opinion, with creative single authorship when we know little or nothing about the author(s)?
We have two different concepts when we are speaking of sources, I think. Do we mean sources in the sense of some prior oral or written tradition about Jesus that Mark has picked up and woven into his work? Or do we mean "sources" generically? All authors rely upon sources to some extent.

And we have a clear source for the miraculous feeding anecdotes in the OT. There can be little doubt, in my mind, that Mark used the OT as a source for his themes, images, scenarios, etc. There is nothing unusual about authors using sources in that way.

But that's not the process that is being described when arguments are mounted for sources in the sense of "traditions" about Jesus.
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Re: It's all yours (Was about a non-Nazareth indicator)

Post by neilgodfrey » Sat Nov 25, 2017 3:15 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Nov 24, 2017 5:52 pm
The only reason I can think of is that you believe that Mark is, not only the first gospel written among extant gospels, but also the first gospel written among all gospels ever written, whether still extant or not. Or do you have another reason for your assumption that I have not thought of? If not, then what is the evidence that Mark was the first gospel text ever penned?
If there is evidence to the contrary then I will roll with it. Is there evidence to the contrary? But "believe" is too strong a word. I don't "believe" anything in that respect.
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Nov 24, 2017 5:52 pm
The argument reminds me a bit of the argument about where God came from? We can go back ad infinitum -- but at some point someone had to start the story or story doublets.
That "someone" does not have to have started the entire story. It could have started small and grown over time.
Yes, it could have. But we need to work with the evidence we've got.
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Re: It's all yours (Was about a non-Nazareth indicator)

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sat Nov 25, 2017 3:36 pm

neilgodfrey wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 3:09 pm
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Nov 24, 2017 5:52 pm
Here you seem to be siding with the idea that Mark's doublets are the result of his own authorial creativity rather than the incorporating of prior sources. But why is this? Why does Occam side, in your opinion, with creative single authorship when we know little or nothing about the author(s)?
We have two different concepts when we are speaking of sources, I think. Do we mean sources in the sense of some prior oral or written tradition about Jesus that Mark has picked up and woven into his work?
Yes.
Or do we mean "sources" generically? All authors rely upon sources to some extent.
Yes again. I mean any and all sources, be they other gospel texts, Pauline epistles, oral tradition, themes from the Hebrew scriptures or the LXX, popular tales modified to fit Jesus... you know, sources.
And we have a clear source for the miraculous feeding anecdotes in the OT. There can be little doubt, in my mind, that Mark used the OT as a source for his themes, images, scenarios, etc.
Right. No doubt at all.
But that's not the process that is being described when arguments are mounted for sources in the sense of "traditions" about Jesus.
In the context of the discussion at hand, the specific option that was on the table was that Mark got his twin feeding narratives from two different versions of a single feeding story which has diverged in previous tradition; I cannot speak for spin, but I myself am not insisting on oral tradition (or on written tradition either, for that matter; I am leaving that open). I am putting this forward as an option, not as a fact or even (yet) as a distinct probability. And what I am wondering is on what basis you can possibly rule, in advance, that this option is less likely than that Mark did not have separate sources for the two feedings; to wit, that he himself wrote both stories from his own creativity, "playing with a theme" (as you said).

I gave evidence for different sources leading to doublets in gospel texts, and I am sure I do not have to give you evidence that authors can creatively double themes themselves without such help. So, with whatever kind of pre-Marcan sources you wish to imagine, how are you able to decide that the creative option is more likely than the option by which Mark found two disparate stories in those sources?
neilgodfrey wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 3:15 pm
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Nov 24, 2017 5:52 pm
The only reason I can think of is that you believe that Mark is, not only the first gospel written among extant gospels, but also the first gospel written among all gospels ever written, whether still extant or not. Or do you have another reason for your assumption that I have not thought of? If not, then what is the evidence that Mark was the first gospel text ever penned?
If there is evidence to the contrary then I will roll with it. Is there evidence to the contrary? But "believe" is too strong a word. I don't "believe" anything in that respect.
My contention is that there is no explicit evidence either way. Therefore we cannot a priori rule out either option. Here are two lists to consult, though:

Extant Gospels
Matthew
Mark
Luke
John
Thomas
Peter*
Philip
Mary
Gospel of the Egyptians (NH)
Gospel of Truth
Eugnostos the Blessed
Sophia of Jesus Christ
Dialogue of the Savior
Gospel of the Savior
Judas
Infancy Gospel of James
Infancy Gospel of Thomas
Book of Thomas the Contender
Gospel of Nicodemus
Diatessaron*

Nonextant Gospels
Ebionites
Nazoreans
Hebrews
Egyptians
Peter*
Eve
Traditions of Matthias, Secret Sayings of Matthias?
Preaching of Peter
Preaching of Paul
Oxyrhynchus 840 Gospel
Oxyrhynchus 1224 Gospel
Egerton Gospel
Fayyum Gospel?
Birth of Mary
Marcionite Gospel
Dura-Europos
Diatessaron*

The two lists are of similar size. The asterisked texts make it on both lists, for reasons which should be obvious. Fiddle with the names or with the numbers all you want, and the same picture emerges: we do not possess nearly every gospel text that was written; many have been lost, and who knows how many existed without leaving us with even a name? So was Mark the first gospel of all time? How would we know in advance? I do not assume Mark was first (implying no gospel sources before his own), and I do not assume Mark was not first (implying the availability of gospel sources from which he may have drawn). For every single passage that I study in Mark I have both of those options fully open for me. You seem to me, on the other hand, to opt for the one that implies no previous gospel sources, as if a lack of a priori evidence somehow privileges that side. But how? Why? On what basis?
That "someone" does not have to have started the entire story. It could have started small and grown over time.
Yes, it could have. But we need to work with the evidence we've got.
Does the evidence we have suggest to you one of these options over the other, before even analyzing any given passage? If so, which evidence?
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Re: It's all yours (Was about a non-Nazareth indicator)

Post by neilgodfrey » Sat Nov 25, 2017 11:03 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 3:36 pm
But that's not the process that is being described when arguments are mounted for sources in the sense of "traditions" about Jesus.
In the context of the discussion at hand, the specific option that was on the table was that Mark got his twin feeding narratives from two different versions of a single feeding story which has diverged in previous tradition; I cannot speak for spin, but I myself am not insisting on oral tradition (or on written tradition either, for that matter; I am leaving that open). I am putting this forward as an option, not as a fact or even (yet) as a distinct probability.
I don't doubt that you are. I didn't think I suggested otherwise. Something askew in the way I come across?

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 3:36 pm
And what I am wondering is on what basis you can possibly rule, in advance, that this option is less likely than that Mark did not have separate sources for the two feedings; to wit, that he himself wrote both stories from his own creativity, "playing with a theme" (as you said).
To me it's a question of analysing the text that we have in the light of known sources that we also have and if they provide a reasonable explanation for the the origin or composition of the text then there is no need to posit scenarios for which we have no evidence and that are unnecessary.

What I find interesting with the hypothetical background to the gospel that is the mainstay of so much textual criticism is that it derives directly from a naive reading of the gospel itself. It assumes without warrant (and some might say even in the face of indications to the contrary) that the story is based on historical events or is meant to be some sort of historical biography. That is the original reason for the default view that the gospel is based on "traditions" that form the chain between those events and the penning of the gospel itself.

That is a baseless assumption yet it is the assumption that lies at the heart of the "oral tradition" model of source criticism.

Now I'm all for testing various hypotheses, but as far as I am aware this is the only hypothesis that is on the market. All others are ruled out as "implausible". There are exceptions, though -- and no, I'm not talking about mythicists; I'm talking about literary criticism of the gospels among those who are more familiar than many others with the non-biblical literature of the day. I am also talking about the standard approaches to documentary analyses used by historians who shun circular methods and are passionate for one reason or another to find the "historical Agamemnon", etc ... Jesus studies are the only faculty that have been guilty of these sins, I have been discovering lately.
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 3:36 pm
I gave evidence for different sources leading to doublets in gospel texts, and I am sure I do not have to give you evidence that authors can creatively double themes themselves without such help. So, with whatever kind of pre-Marcan sources you wish to imagine, how are you able to decide that the creative option is more likely than the option by which Mark found two disparate stories in those sources?
The argument for those sources, though, is circular, is it not? Or at least the logic is begging the question. We read a text with the assumption that it is based on a particular tradition and then say detail X in the narrative is evidence of that tradition. Another hypothesis might be proposed and detail X or Y might be interpreted in the light of that new hypothesis. But if we study the gospel narrative in the light of known sources that we have, and if we find adequate (if not complete) explanations for the text, then why return to untestable hypotheses? (I say "if not complete" explanations because no-one is questioning that some changes have been made between original composition and final canonization for fairly well-known reasons.)

But if we continue to seek explanations or evidence for an untestable hypothesis, then I can imagine no other explanation will be satisfactory anyway.

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Nov 24, 2017 5:52 pm

My contention is that there is no explicit evidence either way. Therefore we cannot a priori rule out either option.
I have never ruled it out. But we need some evidence or data that gives us a "real" reason to explore the question that any hypothesis raises.

I sometimes wonder if it is our model of traditions that raises questions that are in fact resolved adequately when we consider the gospel from another perspective.
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Nov 24, 2017 5:52 pm
we do not possess nearly every gospel text that was written; many have been lost, and who knows how many existed without leaving us with even a name? So was Mark the first gospel of all time? How would we know in advance? I do not assume Mark was first (implying no gospel sources before his own), and I do not assume Mark was not first (implying the availability of gospel sources from which he may have drawn).
Fine, so let's stick with the data. We have some reason to think that the Gospel of Mark was the source of a number of other gospels, so it did come prior to various others.

If there were others that Mark drew upon, fine -- let's look at the evidence. And also be clear about the methods of composition by which we imagine those sources to have been put together in a new gospel, and look for analogs to the practice in the literary culture of the day.

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Nov 24, 2017 5:52 pm
For every single passage that I study in Mark I have both of those options fully open for me. You seem to me, on the other hand, to opt for the one that implies no previous gospel sources, as if a lack of a priori evidence somehow privileges that side. But how? Why? On what basis?
On the basis that historical inquiry can only be justified on the basis of working with evidence.

Alternatives open the door to circular reasoning, favouring one hypothetical over another for no reason other than "authority" or "convention", and unjustifiable conclusions.

Relying on evidence, data, for inquiry, is, I believe, a sounder method and the only method that historical inquiry can justify. That does not mean one closes one's mind to alternative possibilities. One is always aware of the limitations of our data. But that does not excuse us from going beyond the data we do have.

If we cannot find an adequate explanation for the gospels by means of the data we have at hand, then we fall back to agnosticism; not knowing. I think agnosticism is a healthier and more justifiable option to building models that we become attached to even though they lack any evidence -- apart from circular arguments or confirmation bias.
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Fri Nov 24, 2017 5:52 pm
That "someone" does not have to have started the entire story. It could have started small and grown over time.
Yes, it could have. But we need to work with the evidence we've got.
Does the evidence we have suggest to you one of these options over the other, before even analyzing any given passage? If so, which evidence?
I don't think very many scholars would dispute the Isaianic themes in the OT or events in the Elijah-Elisha cycle are among Mark's sources. It's nothing to do with a mythicist bias or anything. Most of the works I have read exploring the way these and other OT sources are used throughout Mark are written by Christians.
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Ulan
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Re: It's all yours (Was about a non-Nazareth indicator)

Post by Ulan » Sun Nov 26, 2017 1:29 am

neilgodfrey wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 11:03 pm
Relying on evidence, data, for inquiry, is, I believe, a sounder method and the only method that historical inquiry can justify. That does not mean one closes one's mind to alternative possibilities. One is always aware of the limitations of our data. But that does not excuse us from going beyond the data we do have.

If we cannot find an adequate explanation for the gospels by means of the data we have at hand, then we fall back to agnosticism; not knowing. I think agnosticism is a healthier and more justifiable option to building models that we become attached to even though they lack any evidence -- apart from circular arguments or confirmation bias.
Nothing what you say here is wrong. We can only make reasonably solid arguments from data we actually have access to. Also, I don't think Ben goes beyond this conclusion of "not knowing" anywhere during his argumentation. He just presents possibilities, as far as I can see it.

In the end, the sources that tell us that many more gospels than those we know existed are also some kind of evidence. Internal evidence is also there, and I don't see any problem with basing attempts of interpretation on this internal evidence. The problem you warn against here only comes up when we start getting that much in love with our conclusions that we use them as "facts". I don't see anyone doing this here.

I mean, just look at the discussion of the "Bethsaida section" (Mk 6:45-8:26). There are good reasons to assume that this is a duplication where one text had a different, separate history from the bulk of gMark. There are also other good reasons to reject this. Still, the text is different enough in a few significant ways to justify the idea that we may look at different sources in in our extant gMark here, even if the original sources may have been some version(s) of "Mark" that we don't know anymore. I think this is different from having "no evidence". The evidence is there. It's just weak evidence, and yes, "we don't know".

There is also the additional problem of treating all evidence equally. If you think of the whole debate of "historical vs. mythical" Jesus, there is an intrinsic inequality in the likelihood of finding evidence for those two propositions, one of them being that proving non-existence is extraordinarily difficult or even impossible (many arguments for historicity ignore this issue).

Not wanting to derail this topic, we have to be crystal clear that all we do here is speculate. If we want to sit on the position that "we don't know", which is obviously correct, then we can just close this forum.

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Re: It's all yours (Was about a non-Nazareth indicator)

Post by neilgodfrey » Sun Nov 26, 2017 2:36 am

Ulan wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2017 1:29 am
neilgodfrey wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 11:03 pm
Relying on evidence, data, for inquiry, is, I believe, a sounder method and the only method that historical inquiry can justify. That does not mean one closes one's mind to alternative possibilities. One is always aware of the limitations of our data. But that does not excuse us from going beyond the data we do have.

If we cannot find an adequate explanation for the gospels by means of the data we have at hand, then we fall back to agnosticism; not knowing. I think agnosticism is a healthier and more justifiable option to building models that we become attached to even though they lack any evidence -- apart from circular arguments or confirmation bias.
Nothing what you say here is wrong. We can only make reasonably solid arguments from data we actually have access to. Also, I don't think Ben goes beyond this conclusion of "not knowing" anywhere during his argumentation. He just presents possibilities, as far as I can see it.
The exercise involves beginning with the model that various traditions (generally oral, but possibly written, too, I suppose) are taken, edited or refined in some way, sometimes taken whole, and then stitched together with other sources as best as the author can manage, usually with some infelicity or lack of imagination, to create a new narrative.

I am not sure that that's how any authors we know of worked to create literary works.

Of course they used sources, but I don't know if they attempted to (or were too unimaginative to do otherwise) piece phrases and sentences or paraphrases together with other paraphrases or texts to make something new.

I am not denying that they used sources. All authors have sources of some kind. And I do not deny that authors could take an existing text and rewrite much of it, as does Matthew. But what I described above is something I don't know that authors did.

The point of the exercise, I think, is to understand as well as we can how our earliest canonical gospel came into existence.

We can make up various scenarios about how the gospel came into existence, and we see if we can find data in the gospel that confirms the "fact" of those scenarios, but that's not a sound methodology, imo.

It's not the way historians validly work with sources or document, as far as I am aware. In fact the method contradicts the sound methods set out by a number of ancient and modern historians, including some who focus more on the OT.
Ulan wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2017 1:29 am

In the end, the sources that tell us that many more gospels than those we know existed are also some kind of evidence.
I think this confuses the meaning or nature of the term "evidence". We don't know of any gospels prior to Mark. Or if we know of them we don't know that they were prior to Mark. There is no evidence for gospels prior to Mark, as far as we are aware.

It is reasonable to argue that Mark was the main source for the other three canonical gospels. It is very reasonable to argue that our canonical gospels, at least in their original (pre-canonical) forms, preceded the other gospels we have. One of them had to be the first and there is strong evidence Mark fits the bill. That's working with the evidence. If new data turns up that overturns that view, then great, we have more to think about.
Ulan wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2017 1:29 am
Internal evidence is also there, and I don't see any problem with basing attempts of interpretation on this internal evidence. The problem you warn against here only comes up when we start getting that much in love with our conclusions that we use them as "facts". I don't see anyone doing this here.
How can we validly establish an argument based on a hypothesis and finding data to support that hypothesis in the gospel? Is that not simply a process of confirmation bias?

We need some data external to a gospel to enable us to get an "objective" handle on the contents of a gospel and a way to interpret it. We have data that is external to Mark that we can see that Mark used. Why do we need to add to that by postulating other data that we don't have and have no way of testing -- if what we do have already goes a long way to answering the question about how the gospel came to be written the way it is?
Ulan wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2017 1:29 am
I mean, just look at the discussion of the "Bethsaida section" (Mk 6:45-8:26). There are good reasons to assume that this is a duplication where one text had a different, separate history from the bulk of gMark. There are also other good reasons to reject this. Still, the text is different enough in a few significant ways to justify the idea that we may look at different sources in in our extant gMark here, even if the original sources may have been some version(s) of "Mark" that we don't know anymore. I think this is different from having "no evidence". The evidence is there. It's just weak evidence, and yes, "we don't know".
We have no way of testing such hypotheses. The evidence we see is the result of confirmation bias. There are no controls. No way of testing any of it.

There is a much simpler explanation (by simpler I mean one that does not draw upon unsupported and unsupportable hypotheses -- apart from confirmation bias/circular reasoning). There are very good reasons to accept the original narrative was playing with "duplications" for theological messages that have been addressed in much of the literature already.

I am led to understand that very few, if any, classicists approach their texts the way NT scholars have traditionally approached the gospels. (There was a time when classicists did dissect Homer's epics much the way of NT source criticism but they have long since abandoned that model. NT scholars may be a bit behind the times.)
Ulan wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2017 1:29 am
There is also the additional problem of treating all evidence equally. If you think of the whole debate of "historical vs. mythical" Jesus, there is an intrinsic inequality in the likelihood of finding evidence for those two propositions, one of them being that proving non-existence is extraordinarily difficult or even impossible (many arguments for historicity ignore this issue).
I think this is based on misunderstanding of the valid historical method. We don't go "looking for" proofs for this or that theory. We look for evidence against this or that, and balance that against what we have. We let the nature of the data decide what questions it permits us to ask.

I think much of the historical-mythicist discussion has nothing to do with sound historical methods or ways of thinking. Too often questions are put to data that it is incapable of answering. And more often data is not studied for what it is, but for stories that have traditionally accompanied those sources. But that's another question.

Ulan wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2017 1:29 am
Not wanting to derail this topic, we have to be crystal clear that all we do here is speculate. If we want to sit on the position that "we don't know", which is obviously correct, then we can just close this forum.
Much source criticism is speculation. But historical inquiry is not, should not, be speculation. That should be evidence based. That does not mean that our conclusions will be dogmatic. They will be tentative but valid because they are evidence based. That's more than speculation or models that are based on confirmation bias and circularity.

I can kind of understand why my questions and proposals seem to be dismissed as "extreme" or nihilistic. They are far from either, though. I am merely attempting to apply normal historical methods to a field that has not generally followed them. I think it is too easy for us all to become immersed in the conventional wisdom, the traditional and universal assumptions, and fail to recognize their circularity or how far removed they are from genuine historical methods.
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Re: It's all yours (Was about a non-Nazareth indicator)

Post by Ulan » Sun Nov 26, 2017 4:00 am

neilgodfrey wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2017 2:36 am
I think this confuses the meaning or nature of the term "evidence". We don't know of any gospels prior to Mark. Or if we know of them we don't know that they were prior to Mark. There is no evidence for gospels prior to Mark, as far as we are aware.

It is reasonable to argue that Mark was the main source for the other three canonical gospels. It is very reasonable to argue that our canonical gospels, at least in their original (pre-canonical) forms, preceded the other gospels we have. One of them had to be the first and there is strong evidence Mark fits the bill. That's working with the evidence. If new data turns up that overturns that view, then great, we have more to think about.
I think at this point you are leaving your own criteria behind. Sure, it "is reasonable that Mark was the main source for the other three canonical gospels". It's a judgment call. We don't have any solid evidence for this claim. This is even more true for the claim that "[w]e don't know of any gospels prior to Mark". Maybe. Maybe not. I say this by the way even though I generally agree with this point of view.

Some apologists like Karl Jaroš or Helmut Berger who wrote relatively recent introductions to the NT, which had reputable publishers, rose in their entry chapters some valid points against how modern NT scholarship works. While I think their books are mostly apologist crap (they abandon their own criticism in favor of just following "tradition"), they put their fingers into open wounds. Many of our "solid" assumptions are just stacks of judgment calls, one upon the other, and that plays havoc with probabilities. There's a reason why the idea that gMark is just a short adaptation of some longer precursor text is never going away.
neilgodfrey wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2017 2:36 am
I think this is based on misunderstanding of the valid historical method. We don't go "looking for" proofs for this or that theory. We look for evidence against this or that, and balance that against what we have. We let the nature of the data decide what questions it permits us to ask.
Both. And yes, we make judgment calls.
neilgodfrey wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2017 2:36 am
Much source criticism is speculation. But historical inquiry is not, should not, be speculation. That should be evidence based. That does not mean that our conclusions will be dogmatic. They will be tentative but valid because they are evidence based. That's more than speculation or models that are based on confirmation bias and circularity.

I can kind of understand why my questions and proposals seem to be dismissed as "extreme" or nihilistic. They are far from either, though. I am merely attempting to apply normal historical methods to a field that has not generally followed them. I think it is too easy for us all to become immersed in the conventional wisdom, the traditional and universal assumptions, and fail to recognize their circularity or how far removed they are from genuine historical methods.
I have read many of your proposals to inject solid historical thinking into NT scholarship, and I find that approach commendable. I'm afraid though that I have an even more nihilistic view of this field than you seem to have.

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Re: It's all yours (Was about a non-Nazareth indicator)

Post by neilgodfrey » Sun Nov 26, 2017 5:33 am

Ulan wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2017 4:00 am
I think at this point you are leaving your own criteria behind. Sure, it "is reasonable that Mark was the main source for the other three canonical gospels". It's a judgment call. We don't have any solid evidence for this claim. This is even more true for the claim that "[w]e don't know of any gospels prior to Mark". Maybe. Maybe not. I say this by the way even though I generally agree with this point of view.
No, the claim is based squarely on observable data. Yes, it is a judgement call, but it is based squarely on the evidence before our eyes. It is based on hard, observable, readable data.

The idea that Mark was not the first gospel is not based directly on any observable evidence. It is entirely hypothetical.

We do know that the canonical gospels, especially the synoptics, are related because we have observable evidence to tell us so, and it is a judgment call based on analysis of that observable data that leads us to conclude Mark came first.

Contrast the basis of the hypothesis that other gospels were extant before Mark.
Ulan wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2017 4:00 am
Some apologists like Karl Jaroš or Helmut Berger who wrote relatively recent introductions to the NT, which had reputable publishers, rose in their entry chapters some valid points against how modern NT scholarship works. While I think their books are mostly apologist crap (they abandon their own criticism in favor of just following "tradition"), they put their fingers into open wounds. Many of our "solid" assumptions are just stacks of judgment calls, one upon the other, and that plays havoc with probabilities. There's a reason why the idea that gMark is just a short adaptation of some longer precursor text is never going away.
I don't follow your analogy. I am talking about historical methods that base judgments on hard data, material evidence. Apologists don't do that.
Ulan wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2017 4:00 am
neilgodfrey wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2017 2:36 am
I think this is based on misunderstanding of the valid historical method. We don't go "looking for" proofs for this or that theory. We look for evidence against this or that, and balance that against what we have. We let the nature of the data decide what questions it permits us to ask.
Both. And yes, we make judgment calls.
The point of valid historical method is that judgment calls are justified by reference to observable, tangible evidence.
Ulan wrote:
Sun Nov 26, 2017 4:00 am
I have read many of your proposals to inject solid historical thinking into NT scholarship, and I find that approach commendable. I'm afraid though that I have an even more nihilistic view of this field than you seem to have.
What is nihilistic about my approach? It is surely not nihilistic to tailor one's questions and inquiries to fit the extent and nature of the evidence we have in hand and to avoid methods based on circular arguments. Mainstream historical inquiries are far from nihilistic.
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Re: It's all yours (Was about a non-Nazareth indicator)

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun Nov 26, 2017 7:25 am

neilgodfrey wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 11:03 pm
What I find interesting with the hypothetical background to the gospel that is the mainstay of so much textual criticism is that it derives directly from a naive reading of the gospel itself. It assumes without warrant (and some might say even in the face of indications to the contrary) that the story is based on historical events or is meant to be some sort of historical biography.
I plead innocent of all such charges. Finding texts or traditions lurking behind the twin feedings in our earliest extant gospel has nothing to do with finding history in them; in fact, at this stage I cannot even imagine how demonstrating such texts or traditions would impact historical questions regarding their contents (the existence of Jesus, for example, or the veracity of either or both of the feedings). How would that even work? We find a stage behind Mark (at least one of the feedings that he did not originate himself, but rather inherited) and bam, the feeding must have happened? That would be silly.
neilgodfrey wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 11:03 pm
We have some reason to think that the Gospel of Mark was the source of a number of other gospels, so it did come prior to various others.
neilgodfrey wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 11:18 pm
GJohn is based on GMark. There are no reasons to treat any of the other gospels as based on oral traditions. In fact, their miraculous content becomes all the more fabulous giving us more reason to be a tad sceptical.
Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote:
Sat Nov 25, 2017 7:08 am
internal „evidence“: the double tradition (Matthew, Luke/Marcion) seems to point to sources, for example „Q“, GThomas gives an impression of such a source
internal „evidence“: Mark's Gospel seems to contain signs of layering (different kinds of arguments – syntax, grammar, sense of the stories ...)
This is question begging or confirmation bias. We need external data, independent of the gospels, to test the interpretations. The arguments are fine if we begin with the belief in oral (other) traditions as the sources of the gospels.
What external data, independent of the gospels, do you have for the proposition that Mark is prior to a number of other gospels, including John? I would love to see a defense of Marcan priority that does not depend on interpreting internal evidence.
Last edited by Ben C. Smith on Sun Nov 26, 2017 9:52 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Charles Wilson
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Re: It's all yours (Was about a non-Nazareth indicator)

Post by Charles Wilson » Sun Nov 26, 2017 8:31 am

Ben --

1. I am not stalking you. I appreciate how you write and what you write. I'm not Posting much these days but you focus on a lot on areas I find interesting.

2. There are several areas that give external evidence for Markan Priority:

A. The Mishmarot Priesthood and the associated Settlements given to the the Houses of Eleazar and Ithamar in Galilee. This is an important area of the Political Landscape and it is (purposely) hidden. The Hasmoneans figure in on this and the Settlements of Jabnit and Meiron can be seen as the Background for the Stories of Mark.

B. John answers Mark. Jay Raskin shows that there appears to be a background Document that both Mark and John used, literally a Cut and Paste relation for the 2 Gospel accounts. John further shows direct relations with Tacitus, Book 4 of Histories. Both use Suetonius, 12 Caesars. In stating that "John answers Mark", however, a temporal relation may not be necessarially be implied. I'm OK with such a relation but it is possible to see, without contradiction, that Mark and John were *almost* simultaneous. How?

3. The Roman Question and John. The "Holy Spirit" controls all of the Gospels and the HS is a cipher for Domitian. This impinges on Mark and John. John has information that Mark ignores, especially at the Crucifixion. John follows Suetonius who describes the deaths of Galba, Otho and Vitellius. These are mapped more in John than Mark and leads to the conclusion that John answers Mark. This, however, may be the incorrect inference. The "Sponge on a hyssop stick soaked in vinegar" is a shallow rewrite of Vitellius and Asiaticus from Suetonius. The four garments, including a "Cuirass", show that the "Jesus" character is invented. John 11 - 12 gives the outline of the Roman Invention and Transvaluation.

4. So, is it about John or Mark? Mark shows a smoothness that is lacking in John but sections (for example, The Empty Tomb, a story dismembered and grafted onto all 4 Gospel accounts) show that the author of Mark was highly artistic in his compositional abilities but was following orders nonetheless. His Construction was still not enough and we find evidence of additions to Mark that were "crudely" put in by people who either did not care about the artistic value or did not see the Structure. Mark's smoothness is beguiling but may lead to errors compared to John.

5. Existence is not a Predicate. From the fact that the "Jesus stories" were written from Source, it does not follow that the Source Stories were about "Jesus". There are many external areas of study that will show that Mark was a Construction for a different purpose than is normally seen. What was veridical? If we see a "Jesus" where none existed, no progress can be made and this ties directly to the question.

"John was of Bilgah, "Jesus" was of Immer".

What could that possibly mean?

CW

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