Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Eyewitness Testimony

Judy Redman has a dynamite article in the newest edition of Journal of Biblical Literature 129 (2010) 177-197. "How Accurate are Eyewitnesses? Bauckham and the Eyewitnesses in the Light of Psychological Research." I am thrilled to see it finally in print!

26 comments:

Ed Jones said...

On Eyewitness Testimony counter to Buckham's Gospel's eyewitness as well as to the Jesus Seminar's fateful conclusion,in the words of Marcus Borg: "There is no reliable Scriptural witness to the historical Jesus".
First the nomenclature problem: The term "Christian" is anachronistic. It was first applied to the Paul and Barnabus mission after 65 CE, it was never applied to the Jerusalem Jesus Movement. Thus the terms Christian Origins, Jewish Christianity, Earliest Christianity are misnomers. Meaningful origins of the Jesus tradition took place in the apostolic period 30 CE-65 CE, before Chrstianity and before the Gospels. In this period there were two movements: the Jesus Movement with its sayings collections and the Christ myth moveMent with its Pauline passion kerygma.

On the real eyewitness testimony: "We now know not only that none of the OT writings is prophetic witness to (Jesus) but also that none of the writings of the NT is aostolic witness to (Jesus) as the early church understood apostolicity - all of them depend on sources earlier than themselves, and hence are not the original and originating witness that the early church mistook them to be - one is forced to decide for a traditional NT canon one can no longer justify by the early church's own criterion of apostolicity or else for this same criterion of canonicity that now allows one to justify only a non traditional canon. All appropriate "Christian" faith and witness are and must be apostolic - - one believes and bears witness with the apostles, solely on the basis of their prior faith and witness - the witness of the apostles is still rightly taken to be the real "Christian" norm, even if we today have to locate this norm not in the writings of the NT but in the earliest stratum of "Christian" (the Jesus radition) witness ascessible to us given our own methods of historical analysis and reconstruction - the first step one must take in using Scripture as a theological authority is historical rather than hermeneutical - Specifically that is the step of reconstructing the history of tradition of which the first three Gospels are the documentation, so as thereby to identify the earliest stratum in the tradition, which is the real "Christian" norm by which Scripture has whatever authority it has" The procedures required to execute it are identical with those long since worked out in the quest for the historical Jesus with the single, if crucial difference, that in this case (given our present historical methods and knowledge) there is no need to make any dubious inferences about Jesus himself, once this earliest stratum of witness has been reconstructed, one may be quite confident of finding what we today can reilably take to be the apostolic witness, and hence the proper canon for judging the appropriatness of all "Christian" witness and theology." (Faith and Freedom by Schubert Ogden)

Geoff Hudson said...

"The term "Christian" is anachronistic. It was first applied to the Paul and Barnabus mission after 65 CE, it was never applied to the Jerusalem Jesus Movement. Thus the terms Christian Origins, Jewish Christianity, Earliest Christianity are misnomers. Meaningful origins of the Jesus tradition took place in the apostolic period 30 CE-65 CE,"

May be it is true to say that the term 'christian' origin was not used by the Jerusalem movement. But one shouldn't think that there wasn't a parallel movement in Italy before 65 CE. There was an inscription CHRISTIANOS left on he attrium wall of a house No. 11 on the Street of the Overhanging Balcony. The house was in Pompeii which was buried under the ashes of Mount Vesuvius in 79.

Christianos could mean the 'anointed ones' or the ones filled with the Spirit. The members of the movement in Rome were probably the first to be called christians.

Ed Jones said...

The reason for our lack of knowledge about Jesus in the wrtings of the NT is not the issue of human memory limitations, rather it is of a hrmeneutical sort - authoral intent.
"The Gentile Christian authors of the Gospels tansmitted to us only that part of the teaching of Jesus that they themselves understood, they handed on only that which they were able to translate into the thought categories of Gentile Christianity, and which they thought worthy of transmission". (Essays on te Sermon on the Mount by Hans Dieter Betz)".

Geoff Hudson said...

"Meaningful origins of the Jesus tradition took place in the apostolic period 30 CE-65 CE, before Chrstianity and before the Gospels. In this period there were two movements: the Jesus Movement with its sayings collections and the Christ myth moveMent with its Pauline passion kerygma."

The two Movements that existed up to 66 CE were simply priests and prophets. The rivalry between the two had developed into fierce opposition. Many prophets went to Rome. The priests were eliminated by Nero in 66 CE.

The prophets were eliminated by Vespasian in around 70CE when he ransacked the sanctuary to fund his rise to power.

The prophets had their own documents - essentially much of the NT, before it was captured by Vespasian and subsequently editied into the pauline documents we have today.

The Christ Jesus Movement and the Jesus Movement with its sayings were later creations.

Jim said...

I wonder … did either of two preceding commenters (so far) read the article April promoted? Has either read Bauckham's work or the discussion of his work in TJHJ? It seems not, but I can’t tell for sure.

Quoting Marcus Borg (see earlier commenter: “There is no reliable Scriptural witness to the historical Jesus”) reminds me of his position on Jesus the-peasant-leader-of-peasants (said at Furman University in 2009). So, do those peasants on whom so much of his reconstruction depends appear in the archaeological record? Distinguished Galilean archaeologist Mordechai "Motti" Aviam says there is no archaeological record of a Galilean peasant culture as presumed by Borg; so where does that leave Borg’s reconstruction of the historical Jesus? In his pursuit of the historical Jesus, the talented Dr. Borg overlooks the compelling archaeological record in favor of modern sociological reconstructions. I therefore question how much confidence to place in his assessment of the lack of historical veracity of the canonical gospels, too.

Invoking the Jesus Seminar’s famous author as if his conclusion is a complete and final assessment (see earlier commenter) reminds me of the Nazareth-Myth author, (atheist) Rene Salm, and his (atheist) editor, Frank Zindler arguing with Dr. Aviam about the early 1st century existence of Nazareth: "case closed", they informed Motti -- no Nazareth in the early 1st century, and anyone who disagrees is biased and ignorant; to which Motti responded, after chuckling at their self-assured pronouncements, “we do not do science that way!” Is the case closed on low quantity and unreliable quality of historical content within the canonical gospels (assuming that is what Borg meant to communicate)? Is “case closed” what the preceding commenters intended by their comments and quotes? Are we at the end of scholarship on this subject, with nothing left to learn, no new information to be discovered, and the remaining task is just to help the remaining dimwits see the obsolescence of their views (including Bauckham)?

I agree with April, Redman’s article is fascinating and helpful. However, early on the author cautions: “one must recognize that research conducted in the twentieth- and twenty-first century Western contexts is not necessarily directly transferable to first-century Palestine, because the different cultural contexts and levels of literacy will have significant effects on memory processes.” I wish she would explain this issue to Dr. Borg. For me, that honest cautionary word does not detract in any way from the helpfulness and insightfulness of Redman’s contribution.

Does anyone plan to read the article April referred and comment on it? I hope so. In some ways it’s a shame April is so busy she cannot comment on this article, but on the other hand we know she has other important work to do. Maybe someone else will jump in and add some link or discussion of Redman’s article. Who knows, maybe Bauckham will respond from his new web site (http://www.richardbauckham.co.uk/ )?

Geoff Hudson said...

The previous poster wrote:

"I agree with April, Redman’s article is fascinating and helpful. However, early on the author cautions: “one must recognize that research conducted in the twentieth- and twenty-first century Western contexts is not necessarily directly transferable to first-century Palestine, because the different cultural contexts and levels of literacy will have significant effects on memory processes.”

Isn't this a get-out? You can't ever know the truth of what really happened back then. And you talk yourselves into believing it. Is this what research is? I think that alot of research is totally dishonest. You skirt around topics, and keep the status quo.

Judy Redman said...

What I was trying to suggest in the section of my article that Jim quotes is that when we draw conclusions from eyewitness testimony and human memory research from Western society in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, we need to be aware that illiterate people in an oral or verbomotor society would have had better trained memories than do literate people in highly literate cultures. I believe that the differences are generally in degree rather than in kind, though.

For example, I told April's "parable of the lottery ticket" (see her article in Jesus, the Voice and the Text: Beyond the Oral and Written Gospel, Tom Thatcher (ed), 135-80. Waco, Texas: Baylor University Press, 2008) to my RELS 387/587 class a couple of weeks ago and even though they knew that they were going to be asked to remember it, they didn't do very well at getting the details right. There was no-one who came even close to verbatim recall. I have every reason to believe that a group of people in Jesus' day would have done a better job than my students because they were much more used to committing things to memory without written aids. Jesus, however, was unlikely to have said to the people he was talking to "now listen carefully - I'm going to ask you to repeat this a bit later in the morning," so there is no reason to suppose that his hearers felt the need to try to remember what he said verbatim.

I would be very happy to discuss this further on my own blog but it seems rather impolite to take up space on April's discussing what I may or may not have said. :-)

Jim said...

I wish to clarify with Judy that my (mis-) use of her quote was meant to be in service of my wisecrack. I believe I did understand it: what I understood from reading your article seems consistent with what you re-stated in your posted comment. My wisecrack is that Dr. Borg, whose quote was invoked by an earlier commenter, does not adequately allow for the possibility that modern sociological science can partially or fully fail one in re-constructing the ancient past, and I wish you would “ ’splain” this to him. Borg’s mis-reading of the ancient Galilean society in light of compelling archaeological evidence convinces me that he is not a scholar who should be deemed quote-worthy for the topic of historical veracity of ancient texts. Really, Borg has nothing to do with your article, and neither April nor you mentioned him; it just seemed to me a wisecrack was an appropriate retort after each of the two earliest commenters apparently began massaging himself vigorously while writing on April’s blog, stimulated by her simple positive reference to your article.

To your serious response, I read your article and I profited greatly from it. I am not prepared to make any case for the historical reliability of the canonical gospels: more, less, or un- reliable. While I appreciate all you wrote in your article and this comment, I am not inclined to conclude that serious flaws in modern human memory therefore render all Jesus tradition or any historical remembrances or traditions historically worthless (and I don’t remember you suggested such ... but my modern memory could be flawed and, even worse, distorted by the red wine I consumed shortly after reading it), which is what earlier commenters seem to be promoting.

I appreciate your article and your research, and I am grateful to know you have a blog. For everyone’s sake, I hope some of the commenters who seem to lurk around April’s blog looking for something to arouse them will not find their way to your blog too.

Geoff Hudson said...

Doesn't he get on your pip?

Judy wrote:
"What I was trying to suggest in the section of my article that Jim quotes is that when we draw conclusions from eyewitness testimony and human memory research from Western society in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, we need to be aware that illiterate people in an oral or verbomotor society would have had better trained memories than do literate people in highly literate cultures. I believe that the differences are generally in degree rather than in kind, though."

May be that's because, unlike Jim, they didn't stuff their brains with a load of useless information. But what you have said rings a bell. May be the final writers of the NT (and may I add especially the writings attributed to Josephus) REVEAL an artfulness, and thus a literate skill, that far surpasses anything that could be acheived today. After all, these documents have fooled the best that modern minds can throw at them. Poor old Jim just can't compete with these ancient folk. And Martin Goodman or Steve Mason can't hack it.

Jim said...

Now, now Geoof. This is all in good fun between a science writer and a tax accountant, right? I like Martin Goodman’s work, and Steve Mason’s too, at least the few publications I’ve read so far. You probably know that Mason does spend some time hacking around in the outdoors … I was introduced to him briefly in January 2009 when he was wandering around Tiberias ... so I’m betting he can “hack it.” I haven’t read everything either of these guys has published, but I don’t recall either of them pronouncing the end of scholarship on the historicity of the gospels. Anyway, I thought Mason was more of a Josephus specialist. Geoof, maybe you can give yourself a rest and smoke a cigarette while reading the article April promoted before getting yourself all lathered up again.

Geoff Hudson said...

May be thats because they see a separation between the writings attributed to Josephus and the original NT. I see the two as very closely intertwined.

The point is that most of the original story of the NT is garbled in the writings attributed to Josephus. Steve Mason doesn't appreciate this because he is a Christian. Nor does Martin Goodman. And the biblical people like yourself, seem scared of talking about Josephus, except to quote him literally.

There is a big difference between liking someone's work and agreeing with it. I like Martin Goodman's work. He sets everything out in order, as in Josephus, but literally, like schoolboy history. It is in his interpretation that I disagree with him.

If Steve Mason was hacking around Tiberias, he was hacking around the wrong place. All the events took place in and around Judea. This was why a very large Roman was found in Judea at Masada. It was built in 66 CE. Perhaps Steve Mason could find one in Galilee. Or was he on the tourist path.

Judy Redman said...

Jim, yes I understood that you were making a wisecrack, and you seem to have understood the thrust of my article well. I am definitely not trying to suggest that the New Testament witness is worthless - the texts very definitely tell us what the early church believed. I am very sure that there are only two ways that we can have an accurate record of someone's actual words. One is to have a sound recording, which is impossible in this situation. The other is for the person concerned either to write the words down or to dictate them to a scribe/secretary, which Jesus seems not to have done.

What I was reacting to was Geoff's comment which followed yours and seems to me to be suggesting that my research is dishonest and supporting the status quo. I think that anyone who reads the paper will see that I am not attempting to do the latter and that the research is at least throrough. :-)

Jim said...

Geoof, you seem to know more about me than anyone I know in person, even myself. Do you think we have a cosmic connection? Or, maybe just a comic connection? Speaking of which, in the USA there is a popular comic strip, titled Bizarro. Have you ever lived in that comic strip? Just wondering.

Jim said...

Geoof, by the way, you wrote: This was why a very large Roman was found in Judea at Masada. Who was the very large Roman? May I presume he was a soldier? Do we have a specimen like the Ice Man, or was he still alive when “we” found him?

Now, on another look, I see you wrote: All the events took place in and around Judea. So was Tiberias abandoned or never inhabited in the first century CE (which to a biblical guy like me means Christian Era)? (If you answer yes, of course I’ll know you’ve been reading up on the latest Zindler-Salm theories … I’ll bet you’ve heard, they have examined 6 oil lamps and “closed [the] case” that Tiberias was not really inhabited until the Crusader period.) And, are you going to now tell me that the great story that I thought was from Josephus about the day laborers living up the hill from Tiberias who were out-working all of Tiberias’ union-organized day laborers around the time of the Jewish Revolt is just a (Christian) legend? Dammit, we biblical people just can’t seem to create a story that will stand up to even the lightest-weight scrutiny (not that you’re a light-weight, Geoof)! By the way, you really need to get by and take in the phony 1st century CE (=Christian Era) synagogue that the IAA has faked up in Migdal. The IAA people are saying Jesus probably was there in the adjacent Beit Midrash (at this point, who will fault me for this little anachronism?) … what a hoot, right? I wonder if they are going to claim they, too, found a very large Roman in Migdal?

Jim said...

Judy, you wrote: I think that anyone who reads the paper will see that I am not attempting to do the latter and that the research is at least thorough.

I want to apologize for making the occasion of April’s referral of your paper into weekend of goofing with Geoof. He’s never going to read your paper. However, let’s hope there are many, many who will read it and appreciate from it. I know a couple of scholars whose special attention will be called to it this week.

Geoff Hudson said...

Now I wonder who the 'couple of scholars' will be Jim? You could always drag-in N T Wrong. I know that you fancy yourself as a protector of young scholars.

Its a pity that Judy's paper was not on the web somewhere. In fact why bother with journals any more.

I haven't said that there were no Jews living in Galilee. Synagogues merely prove the presence of Jews. I have said that Galilee was not involved in the events of the NT nor in the war described in the writings attributed to Josephus. Vespasian fighting his way through Galilee is a myth. Winners are the writers of events, Jim.

Jim said...

Geoof, your punch line is so amazingly clear and straightforward. “Winners are the writers of events.” This really says it all, doesn’t it? “Case closed.” Of course, if it could be demonstated that this pronouncement is not universally true, then would you agree that your imagination might have got the best of you? And if that were to happen, could we hear less from you?

Geoff Hudson said...

So why hasn't it sunk-in? That "winners write history" is not "case closed" but "case open". It is a fundamental starting point. Goodman and Mason have forgotten all about that. They cover themselves with qualifying phrases like: "according to Josephus". And carry-on, leaving one to accept their literal interpretation. That cannot be the way to do real history.

Robert Cargill, and apparently most scholars, believe that the
Copper Scroll is insignificant, or an anomaly. The story of the Copper Scroll is right there in Josephus. The priests took the public treasure and hid it, just after they took the Scrolls and hid them (the documents that were supposed to be contracts of creditors). Both events are obfuscated in Josephus.

Talking of hearing folk, you pop up everywhere. That is, unless you pretend your blog has been hacked and throw your toys out of the pram.

How could I get hold of Judy's Paper?

Jim said...

Geoof, subscribe to the Journal of Biblical Literature or join the Society. There you can get a copy of her paper. It's been fun sparring with you (you won by a knockout, by the way). Please tell Alice I saw her movie when you return home to Wonderland.

Geoff Hudson said...

Who is living in a wonderland, Jim? Is it all the biblical scholars who would be out of business if they suddenly denied the existence of Jesus?

And what about all those biblically based Christian scholars of Josephus who slavishly interprete the writings attributed to Josephus literally? Specialists like Mason can be dangerous.

I left yours and Alice's world quite a few years ago, and that was before I realised that there was a different story behind the NT, Josephus' War and part of Antiquities. Be as rude as you like, this story is becoming more evident as time passes, so don't think that I am going away.

A recent realisation was the Scrolls being taken by the priests from Agrippa I's library. And the Copper Scroll being written by the priests to show where they had hidden the real loot (the "public treasure") which they took either for their own greed or to build defences, or both. So, Robert Cargill (a sort of Christian) should watch out. Oh, I forgot, he will still have Jim to put his loving arms around him.

I think there is lttle point in me joining the SBL.

Pastor Bob said...

wow! And I thought things were tough when theologians get together and argue in the Church! I think I'll stick to preaching. I don't know that I have the strength to battle in the scholarly world.

Geoff Hudson said...

Sorry Bob. There is a long standing fued between myself and Jim.

Judy wrote (according to Jim who has read her article):

“one must recognize that research conducted in the twentieth- and twenty-first century Western contexts is not necessarily directly transferable to first-century Palestine, because the different cultural contexts and levels of literacy will have significant effects on memory processes.”

Now I don't know what level of literacy, Judy thinks the the final writers of the NT had. To me, the extant documents convey a high level of literacy. This is also true of the the earlier layer of writing - the Essenes were not exactly unknown for study. The proof that the final writers were sophistcates is their inventive stories of Jesus that they created around the earlier layer. These stories were read like Enid Blyton. But there was something else. They were also the propaganda of Rome. The writers were creating a new religion. They would pull-the-wool over people's eyes. And they would back it up with their own history to boot - the edited writings of Josephus. In this sense they were modern, being no different from many modern writers, excpt that they had better memories becuase they didn't fill their brains with all the stuff we do today.

Geoff Hudson said...

Sorry about the spelling.

Ed Jones said...

On the authority of indisputably three of our top longeststanding critical historical New Testament scholars this is to make the claim that the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:3-7:27) constitutes our most certain apostolic source for understanding the real Jesus of history, the alternative source to the writings of the New Testament, the letters of Paul, the Gospels as well as the later writings of the New Testament (with the exception of the Letter of James).

Pastor Bob said...

Geoff

I think you will find that Judy meant in non literate cultures generations pass information from one to another by memorization and story. Thus while the gospel writers may not have gotten the exact words of Jesus (and then edited them to fit their theological purposes) the quality of memory was generally higher simply because most people couldn't write things down. What was it 90 to 95 % of the people in the Roman era were illiterate?

So I tell my phone to remind me about what I have to do. I have to be able to read and write for the phone to remind me. What we should worry about is what's coming down the road (and I suspect the technology is already there) when no one will have to read or write but their phones can do all the work for them. Of course people read faster than they speak . . .

Geoff Hudson said...

The priests would come into Jerusalem twice a year. They were taught by more literate priests using the documents known as the Dead Sea Scrolls held in a central library in Jerusalem. Some of those documents (the Community Rule for example) was applicable to a time when the priests were barred from the temple by the prophets (the seekers of smooth things) and the ruler. This is an example of the literate few teaching the illiterate many (of the order of 25,000).

The prophets (essenes) on the other hand were all literate. There were 4000 or so prophets. The NT documents in their original form were written and read by such. "They also take great pains in studying the writings of the ancients". (War 2.8.6) Some of them "by reading the holy books" were "perpetually conversant in the discourses of the prophets". (War 2.8.12) Thus we have a means by which the original NT documents were written (before the Flavians got hold of them).