Thomas L Brodie on Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'and oral traditions

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
Giuseppe
Posts: 4997
Joined: Mon Apr 27, 2015 5:37 am
Location: Italy

Re: Thomas L Brodie on Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'and oral traditions

Post by Giuseppe » Sun Nov 25, 2018 5:37 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sat Nov 24, 2018 1:15 pm
Giuseppe wrote:
Sat Nov 24, 2018 11:26 am
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sat Nov 24, 2018 9:56 am

I cannot critique a book I have not read. I can critique only those which I have.
I would be interested in a your critical review of this book.
I may be able to lay hands on it sometime soon. In the meantime, may I point out that the summary of it at that link you offered indulges in a variant of the logical fallacy of which I wrote?

I show with multiple examples, that the scenes in the Gospel of Mark are based on literary allusions and that the character and teachings of Jesus are based on the letters of Paul. This shows that the writer of the Gospel of Mark developed the entire narrative of his story on his own and that the Markan narrative is not based on any oral traditions or prior narratives about Jesus.

Perhaps the book itself avoids this pitfall. That would be refreshing. It is certainly not fair to judge a book by its advertising summary.

But the statement above does not logically hold. That is, the premise (that the scenes in the gospel of Mark are based on literary allusions and the teachings of Paul) does not in any way necessarily entail the conclusion (that the author of Mark developed his narrative "on his own" without the help either of "oral traditions" or of "prior narratives about Jesus").
I have read the book, and I can (relatively, since I am not the author!) confirm that if it is true that:

the premise (that the scenes in the gospel of Mark are based on literary allusions and the teachings of Paul) does not in any way necessarily entail the conclusion (that the author of Mark developed his narrative "on his own" without the help either of "oral traditions" or of "prior narratives about Jesus"

...from the other hand, the same premise also raises the concrete possibility that that implication is true.

It is the other fact (the fact that all the rest - about an earthly Jesus against a revelatory Jesus - is based on Mark and only on Mark) that makes absolutely true the conclusion of which above (=the oral tradition doesn't exist behind Mark, hence the historical Jesus didn't exist).

An analogy may be derived from the military strategy (or from chess game): if someone (the general "Church" :whistling: ) defends a citadel only with the army X, and there is no certainty about the fact that the army X can really defend alone the citadel*, then it is vain to image that the general "Church" could command also the armies Y, Z, etc. (because otherwise he would have used also them to defend the citadel, contra factum that he didn't so).

*Just as there is not certainty that "Mark" alone can confirm or deny the historicity of Jesus.
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

User avatar
Ben C. Smith
Posts: 6098
Joined: Wed Apr 08, 2015 2:18 pm
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: Thomas L Brodie on Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'and oral traditions

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun Nov 25, 2018 8:52 am

Giuseppe wrote:
Sun Nov 25, 2018 5:37 am
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sat Nov 24, 2018 1:15 pm
Giuseppe wrote:
Sat Nov 24, 2018 11:26 am
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sat Nov 24, 2018 9:56 am

I cannot critique a book I have not read. I can critique only those which I have.
I would be interested in a your critical review of this book.
I may be able to lay hands on it sometime soon. In the meantime, may I point out that the summary of it at that link you offered indulges in a variant of the logical fallacy of which I wrote?

I show with multiple examples, that the scenes in the Gospel of Mark are based on literary allusions and that the character and teachings of Jesus are based on the letters of Paul. This shows that the writer of the Gospel of Mark developed the entire narrative of his story on his own and that the Markan narrative is not based on any oral traditions or prior narratives about Jesus.

Perhaps the book itself avoids this pitfall. That would be refreshing. It is certainly not fair to judge a book by its advertising summary.

But the statement above does not logically hold. That is, the premise (that the scenes in the gospel of Mark are based on literary allusions and the teachings of Paul) does not in any way necessarily entail the conclusion (that the author of Mark developed his narrative "on his own" without the help either of "oral traditions" or of "prior narratives about Jesus").
I have read the book, and I can (relatively, since I am not the author!) confirm that if it is true that:

the premise (that the scenes in the gospel of Mark are based on literary allusions and the teachings of Paul) does not in any way necessarily entail the conclusion (that the author of Mark developed his narrative "on his own" without the help either of "oral traditions" or of "prior narratives about Jesus"

...from the other hand, the same premise also raises the concrete possibility that that implication is true.
I do not view oral tradition as required to explain, in the abstract, some gap in the record between Jesus and the gospels. Oral tradition is not a presumption for me.
It is the other fact (the fact that all the rest - about an earthly Jesus against a revelatory Jesus - is based on Mark and only on Mark) that makes absolutely true the conclusion of which above (=the oral tradition doesn't exist behind Mark, hence the historical Jesus didn't exist).
There you go with your boldfaced "facts" again. :facepalm: Come on, man. You know early Christian history is not as simple as statements like these make it out to be.

In your analogy, if your General happens to be a Colonel Blotto, then perhaps his other armies, the ones not being used defending the citadel, are actually being used on other, equally important battlegrounds. Perhaps the good General (or Colonel) is simply finding that his forces are being spread out too thinly for his own liking.

As for me, I have made numerous arguments before that Mark is not the first gospel; something like Mark may well be our first extant gospel, but our canonical Mark evinces many signs of reworking materials (instead of creating them from scratch): the same kinds of signs, in fact, that Matthew and Luke evince when they are reworking Mark.
ΤΙ ΕΣΤΙΝ ΑΛΕΘΕΙΑ

Giuseppe
Posts: 4997
Joined: Mon Apr 27, 2015 5:37 am
Location: Italy

Re: Thomas L Brodie on Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'and oral traditions

Post by Giuseppe » Sun Nov 25, 2018 9:42 am

There is this quote from William of Orange:

It is not necessary to hope in order to act, nor to succeed in order to persevere.

https://www.forbes.com/quotes/10092/

...that is even today quoted as coming from himself, and as such is been reported by many historians in different times. The reality was that the phrase was given to William of Orange by the French historian Migne in a work dated 1842. This example is reported by the mythicist Marc Stéphane (in the his book) as analogy with what "Mark" did: the fact (really, a real fact) that so many authors reported the same quote as an authentic quote "of" William of Orange created the illusion of multiple independent sources "confirming" that presumed paternity.

Could the same be happened with proto-Mark?

If someone (R.G.Price?) can prove that any earthly Jesus version later than proto-Mark is derived from proto-Mark and only from it, then what prevents that the relative silence about that version before proto-Mark can become evidence against that version being the original view of Jesus?

The point is that, even if R.G Price had not proved the dependance on proto-Mark of any other gospel distinct from proto-Mark, the symptoms that the things happened just so (and not differently) are just there, at least for the simple raison that, in the case of the false quote of William of Orange, the same symptoms are at work, mutatis mutandis:

1) silence before the false attribution
2) the first (false) attribution of a saying (or of an entire life, that is the same)
3) a lot of rumors about that saying (or that entire life, that is the same) based on point 2 and "denying" the real silence of the point 1.
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

User avatar
Ben C. Smith
Posts: 6098
Joined: Wed Apr 08, 2015 2:18 pm
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: Thomas L Brodie on Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'and oral traditions

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun Nov 25, 2018 10:12 am

Giuseppe wrote:
Sun Nov 25, 2018 9:42 am
If someone (R.G.Price?) can prove that any earthly Jesus version later than proto-Mark is derived from proto-Mark and only from it, then what prevents that the relative silence about that version before proto-Mark can become evidence against that version being the original view of Jesus?
The more extant texts compared to nonextant texts we have, the better this works. The more nonextant texts there are/were, all the worse for this approach, since our sample of extant texts is extremely susceptible to the biases of the scribes who preserved them.

This thread is about Thomas L. Brodie, and here, for example, is his own view of gospel relationships, as helpfully posted by MrMacSon:

Image

Brodie seems to think that Mark was preceded by a proto-Lucan gospel text. Brodie must be unaware of your facts.
ΤΙ ΕΣΤΙΝ ΑΛΕΘΕΙΑ

Giuseppe
Posts: 4997
Joined: Mon Apr 27, 2015 5:37 am
Location: Italy

Re: Thomas L Brodie on Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'and oral traditions

Post by Giuseppe » Sun Nov 25, 2018 10:32 am

Brodie is a real enigm for me. I mean: how can he be a sincere mythicist without assuming some Pauline epistles coming before the Earliest Gospel. (beyond if you call it proto-Luke or proto-Mark or Mcn)?

Compare John the Baptist with Jesus, for example, and assume that the Josephus passage was a total interpolation. Even so, before the Earliest Gospel talking the first time about John, the silence about John is so sound, not only about an earthly John but also about a celestial deity named John, that as effect I can't conclude positively that John never existed. It is impossible to conclude positively that John the Baptist, or Matthew the Publican, or Ebion, or Valentinus, never existed.

While with Jesus, the fact that before the Earliest Silence there is a sound silence about the his earthly description (and not about the his celestial version) does me deny positively his historicity.
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

User avatar
Ben C. Smith
Posts: 6098
Joined: Wed Apr 08, 2015 2:18 pm
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: Thomas L Brodie on Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'and oral traditions

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun Nov 25, 2018 10:49 am

Giuseppe wrote:
Sun Nov 25, 2018 10:32 am
Brodie is a real enigma for me. I mean: how can he be a sincere mythicist without assuming some Pauline epistles coming before the Earliest Gospel. (beyond if you call it proto-Luke or proto-Mark or Mcn)?
According to the chart above, he thinks that at least 1 Corinthians preceded the first gospel. I am not sure what you are saying or trying to mean here.
ΤΙ ΕΣΤΙΝ ΑΛΕΘΕΙΑ

Giuseppe
Posts: 4997
Joined: Mon Apr 27, 2015 5:37 am
Location: Italy

Re: Thomas L Brodie on Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'and oral traditions

Post by Giuseppe » Sun Nov 25, 2018 11:03 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sun Nov 25, 2018 10:49 am
Giuseppe wrote:
Sun Nov 25, 2018 10:32 am
Brodie is a real enigma for me. I mean: how can he be a sincere mythicist without assuming some Pauline epistles coming before the Earliest Gospel. (beyond if you call it proto-Luke or proto-Mark or Mcn)?
According to the chart above, he thinks that at least 1 Corinthians preceded the first gospel. I am not sure what you are saying or trying to mean here.
I am saying that the Argument from Silence is Strong against X not when we don't have - in absolute terms - stories about X, but when we have only stories about a celestial X (and only from a later time the stories about an earthly X). At contrary, Brodie is basing his entire case on the absence of (both celestial and earthly) stories about Jesus, apart the first story about an earthly Jesus (1 Cor's priority doesn't count in the his reconstruction, as not written, for him, by a real Paul).

Differently from Brodie, to be a sincere mythicist I have need of the assumption that at least someone, before the first earthly legend of Jesus, was able to "see" a mythological Jesus. The mere silence is not enough.
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

Irish1975
Posts: 76
Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2017 8:01 am

Re: Thomas L Brodie on Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'and oral traditions

Post by Irish1975 » Sun Nov 25, 2018 12:00 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sat Nov 24, 2018 8:53 am
One logical error that I see interpreters of the "no oral tradition" camp falling into time after time (mainly on this forum, but occasionally in the scholarly literature, as well) is the following:
  1. Many/most of the gospel stories about Jesus are based upon scriptural precedents (the feeding of the five thousand, for example, being based upon a similar feeding by Elijah).
  2. Therefore the story of the feeding of the five thousand is a literary creation accomplished without the use of oral tradition.
Or some similar variant of this fallacy in two steps. Yet it is obvious that people can develop such stories orally (in their preaching, for example) as well as in a more literary fashion (pen to parchment, one line at a time, some well-worn scriptural scroll immediately to hand). This leads me to believe that what is actually meant by the term "oral tradition," for many, is a tradition which goes back to an historical Jesus. It is not the original orality of the stories that is at stake, but rather the historicity of the man about whom the stories were being told. Or, at least, to rule out an oral origin for such stories is a bare assumption (in agreement with what Irish1975 seems to assert).
I’m not sure I follow. I wasn’t putting forward a bare assumption that stories come from pens rather than mouths. Do you see Brodie committing the “logical fallacy,” or are you just maintaining that the biblical authors got their material (somehow, to some extent) from storytellers and preachers and the culture of orality that was ubiqitous in the world down to the 18th century? Brodie is quite comfortable with all of that and discusses it at length in chapter 12. Once again, the real issue is "how to deduce from a piece of writing that it is based on oral transmission" (p. 116).

It is true that the theory of oral tradition, at least for this discussion, is all about the historical Jesus quests (hence Brodie’s title). It might be helpful to review one of the main ideas of NT form criticism pioneered in the 1920s by Dibelius and Bultmann and others. It seems to me this is what Brodie is really going after. The idea was to interpret the (mainly synoptic) Gospels by sifting stories and sayings into three types:

1) stories or sayings that can justifiably be attributed to the "earthly" life experience of Jesus (sitz im leben Jesu)
2) stories or sayings that reflect the experiences and theology of the original Jesus-worshipping communities (sitz in leben der kirche)
3) stories or sayings that reflect the agenda of the Gospel author(s) and/or editors (sitz im Evangelium)

This model uses the theory oral tradition in order to connect a postulated historical Jesus to our Gospel texts. The second type of “church” material is the oral tradition that is the only possible medium through which the historical Jesus is known to modern readers.

The model itself is neutral about the HJ, and what conclusions can be drawn. Bultmann himself didn't put stock in the historical Jesus, attributing a great deal of synoptic material to early Christian experience, which he thought had no concern for history. Many of the original form critics attributed almost nothing to the Gospel writers, regarding them as essentially passive collectors of oral tradition. Later, students of Bultmann used the model for the second or third waves of the historical Jesus quest, trying above all to find the first type of content. In order to do so, they needed to develop a confident understanding of type 2 material that balanced spontaneous theological thinking of the community against reliably remembered stories going back to Jesus. Today, there seems to be a movement to focus on type 3 material (Trobisch, for example).

A weakness of the model that is apparent to us in the 21st century is that we are more aware of how little we know about the “early church,” the earliest “Christians,” and the movements that gave birth to the NT. Acts of the Apostles is tendentious 2nd century harmonization of Paul and the Judaic Christians (“the twelve”) centered in Jerusalem around Peter, James, and John. The HJ quests are stalled if not defunct. We will always have a better chance of achieving knowledge about the NT as a finished, enduring product than about the world that generated it, hence the promise of literary and canonical theories by the likes of Brodie and Trobisch.
Sub Tiberio quies.

User avatar
Ben C. Smith
Posts: 6098
Joined: Wed Apr 08, 2015 2:18 pm
Location: USA
Contact:

Re: Thomas L Brodie on Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'and oral traditions

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sun Nov 25, 2018 12:29 pm

Irish1975 wrote:
Sun Nov 25, 2018 12:00 pm
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sat Nov 24, 2018 8:53 am
One logical error that I see interpreters of the "no oral tradition" camp falling into time after time (mainly on this forum, but occasionally in the scholarly literature, as well) is the following:
  1. Many/most of the gospel stories about Jesus are based upon scriptural precedents (the feeding of the five thousand, for example, being based upon a similar feeding by Elijah).
  2. Therefore the story of the feeding of the five thousand is a literary creation accomplished without the use of oral tradition.
Or some similar variant of this fallacy in two steps. Yet it is obvious that people can develop such stories orally (in their preaching, for example) as well as in a more literary fashion (pen to parchment, one line at a time, some well-worn scriptural scroll immediately to hand). This leads me to believe that what is actually meant by the term "oral tradition," for many, is a tradition which goes back to an historical Jesus. It is not the original orality of the stories that is at stake, but rather the historicity of the man about whom the stories were being told. Or, at least, to rule out an oral origin for such stories is a bare assumption (in agreement with what Irish1975 seems to assert).
I’m not sure I follow. I wasn’t putting forward a bare assumption that stories come from pens rather than mouths.
Yes, I know that, which is why I was in agreement with what you were seeming to assert.
Do you see Brodie committing the “logical fallacy,” ...?
No. At least not yet. I made clear that it was mainly certain posters on this forum whom I had in mind, and that I only occasionally see it come into play among scholars. (My suspicion, in fact, is that certain posters on this forum are misreading some of their favorite scholars.)
...or are you just maintaining that the biblical authors got their material (somehow, to some extent) from storytellers and preachers and the culture of orality that was ubiqitous in the world down to the 18th century?
What I maintain is that Mark (assuming Marcan priority) was not based solely upon the scriptures, the epistles of Paul, and the author's own imagination. Something came before Mark. Whether that something was oral or written or what have you has to be determined (or often guessed at) case by case.

What I see on this forum quite a bit is a choice between two options:
  1. The stories about Jesus derive ultimately from eyewitness accounts promulgated and enhanced along the way by oral tradition.
  2. The stories about Jesus derive ultimately from elements of the Hebrew scriptures which have been historicized around the figure of Jesus.
This choice, as it stands, lacks nuance (of course), but if I were forced to pledge my allegiance to one option or the other I would firmly be in camp #2: the stories about Jesus are taken from scripture.

So far so good, even if we have made things too black and white. But then the next step on this forum is often to use option #2 as the main or indeed only premise for another conclusion: to wit, that Mark himself (again, assuming Marcan priority) had nothing before him except for scripture, Paul, and his own wits. And that is the fallacy I am talking about. To jump from the stories being derived from scripture to Mark having done all of the derivation himself is a fantastic slap in the face of reason. I gave an example of just this sort of reasoning from that link that Giuseppe offered; it was advertising a book, and it is not always fair to judge the book by its advertising, so all due caution is merited, of course. But the statement itself, on its own, was a sterling example of this logical fallacy.
ΤΙ ΕΣΤΙΝ ΑΛΕΘΕΙΑ

User avatar
MrMacSon
Posts: 5821
Joined: Sat Oct 05, 2013 3:45 pm

Re: Thomas L Brodie on Ehrman's 'Did Jesus Exist?'and oral traditions

Post by MrMacSon » Sun Nov 25, 2018 1:10 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sun Nov 25, 2018 10:12 am
Giuseppe wrote:
Sun Nov 25, 2018 9:42 am
If someone (R.G.Price?) can prove that any earthly Jesus version later than proto-Mark is derived from proto-Mark and only from it, then what prevents that the relative silence about that version before proto-Mark can become evidence against that version being the original view of Jesus?
The more extant texts compared to nonextant texts we have, the better this works. The more nonextant texts there are/were, all the worse for this approach, since our sample of extant texts is extremely susceptible to the biases of the scribes who preserved them.

This thread is about Thomas L. Brodie, and here, for example, is his own view of gospel relationships, as helpfully posted by MrMacSon:
Cheers Ben. I'm not sure if I represented the Logia correctly, so here is a curved green line modified representation of them (I think having them as a two step as I previously depicted might be better, but I had previously inadvertently left off the Devarium, Logi clarification under Deuteronomy).

Mainly, here is a question for you for clarification for me about the Hebrew Bible Scriptures 'literary pyramid' that Brodie provided, based on Freedman 1991: I presume it reflects a 'flow' as depicted by the orange arrows in this diagram -

update: Ben kindly and promptly answered thus -
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sun Nov 25, 2018 1:28 pm

I would have thought that the arrow on the right would go in the other direction: from Deuteronomy to Kings. Brodie writes on page 29 that Deuteronomy "culminates the Pentateuch and colors all of Joshua-2 Kings" (italics mine). To culminate something would seem to entail coming after it, while to color something seems to me to entail coming before it and influencing it. Also, he writes, "Within the Bible's foundational narrative (Genesis-Kings), Deuteronomy and Elijah-Elisha constitute, respectively, the center and the final prophetic interlude." Deuteronomy is in the center, Elijah-Elisha at the end. But Brodie is not really talking about strict direction of dependence here; it may be best to leave those arrows out. He does say on page xxviii that "[t]his is the literary backbone. The full pattern of dependence is far more complex, with influences from other writings and from the intense social and historical events of the first century."
So here is a subsequently modified diagram to reflect that -

Brodie Birthing schema elaborated v3.PNG
Brodie Birthing schema elaborated v3.PNG (48.06 KiB) Viewed 2866 times

Also, I have taken liberties with specifying the 'Proto-Luke -> Mark -> Matthew -> John -> Canonical-Luke schema, though they may not be too far out. Interestingly, what Brodie originally depicted is close to what Matthias Klinghardt proposes (as recently stated by Dieter Roth). See next post ->
Last edited by MrMacSon on Sun Nov 25, 2018 4:13 pm, edited 2 times in total.

Post Reply