Markus Vinzent's Blog

Monday, 10 March 2014

How to supplement content of texts for conservative reasons - a new review by Dr. H. H. Drake Williams III of my "Christ's Resurrection in Early Christianity"

Jan Bremmer kindly drew my attention to the recent RBL review of my "Christ's Resurrection in Early Christianity" - and it is programmatic that Howard Williams starts off his counter-argument ('should be questioned') by using assumptions ('Would it not be possible that a writer could build upon earlier statements, assuming the importance of what was previously written?')
Of course a lot of things are possible, if we start from right and even wrong assumptions, but I always feel that historians should start with the least assumptions possible. Hence before beginning with what we have to assume or what we have to infer or to correct or insert, instead, historians and theologians start with what they read in their texts, not what they don't read in them, what they don't want to read or what they cannot read in them. If our theories only work when we assume that authors meant or could have written, if they had been of the same mind set as their interpreter, we enter into circular arguments. The latter is the foundation still of much of New Testament scholarship. When, to follow this reviewer, 1 Clement builds on Paul's letters, I think, we should not infer from there that he is conveying Paul as Paul may have seen himself. This would be as if my reviewer would report in his counter-argument what I really wanted to say, quite the opposite, I'd like to state. I cannot follow therefore the argument that the fact of '1 Clem. 24.1, 4–5 dependent upon 1 Cor 15 ... would indicate that the author of 1 Clement built upon the conclusion from 1 Cor. 15 rather than obscuring or abandoning the importance of Christ’s resurrection'.On the question of the reception of the Gospels, I am surprised that the reviewer calls my statement ('recent scholarship on the reception of the later canonical Gospels and Acts up to Irenaeus (ca. 177/180 AD) shows that neither these texts, nor any of their
narratives (the miracles, for example), nor their authors, were ever quoted, acknowledged or referred to by any author prior to Marcion') controversial, pointing to the volume of Gregory and Tuckett of 2005. As you can see from the discussion of this volume in my new Marcion-book (pp. 224ff.), Gregory and Tuckett come to the same conclusion as that one stated in my Resurrection book, when Petersen in this book concludes that the empirical textual observations were devastating for the idea of a "standard" or "established" text of the New Testament in the first half of the second century and that the 'vast majority of passages in the Apostolic Fathers for which one can find likely parallels in the New Testament [and he stated earlier that these were relatively few] have deviations from our present, critically reconstructed New Testament text', and that such deviations were 'not minor ..., but major (a completely new context, a substantial interpolation or omission, a conflation of two entirely separate ideas and/or passages)'. And the result shows that my statement was correct - all these references refer to logia of the Lord, not to narratives.
Again, the further counter-argument deploys the dating of texts, although I stated that dating is not the issue, as the texts that the reviewer then mentions (with the exception of Papias) all refer to Pauline texts which only strengthens my thesis, as I claim that only within the Pauline tradition the Resurrection of Christ remained remembered.
The review is an interesting case how conservativism (a self-description of the author on his website who's purpose is of making Christian disciples) impacts on reading things into texts which historians will hardly find in them.