Parallel discussions in the blogosphere about Parallelism

Enns

Enns (Photo credit: mag3737) or Ens?

It started here with McGrath speaking about Brodie’s aptness to resort to parallelism, a term coined by Sandmel. The Shape responded here by saying,

“It’s not the process of parallelomania that I dislike but rather the term itself. It is not helpful and is dismissive in its nature.”

McGrath responded. The Shape responded.

And now, let me respond. First, I want to point out to you something rather odd

Petrus Ens, a Reformed professor in Harderwijk, had been accused of teaching Socinian theses [in the middle of the 18th century]. While the case of Stinstra [a minister removed from office for doctrinal reasons] caused a great commotion throughout the country, Ens was a little combative; when it appeared that he maintained his refusal to withdraw his statements, he was quietly removed from the academy (1741). It is the only time in the history of the Reformed Church after the Synod of Dordrecht that a theological professor in the Netherlands was dismissed for his doctrine.

Let that sink in. Now, read it again, like this:

Peter Enns, a Reformed professor in Westminster, had been accused of teaching a post-modern theses. While the case of Pahl [a minister removed from office for doctrinal reasons] caused a great commotion throughout the country, Enns was a little combative; when it appeared that he maintained his refusal to withdraw his statements, he was quietly removed from the academy (2008). It is the only time in the history of the Reformed Church after the Westminster Confession that a theological professor in the United States was dismissed for his doctrine.

Both are true stories. Entirely true. Both.

So, what to do with parallelism? First, The Shape may be correct in suggesting it is a cheap shot and Sandmel does not help his case when he says,

“…that extravagance among scholars which first overdoes the supposed similarity in passages and then proceeds to describe source and derivation as if implying literary connection flowing in an inevitable or predetermined direction…we are at a junction when biblical scholarship should recognise parallelomania for the disease that it is.”

However, there are some that are truly diseased – Joseph Atwill, Ralph Ellis, and others — but there are those who correctly call out parallelism (sometimes Brodie, myself, etc…). Is there a better term? Doubtful, but can it be better used?

Yes. As I pointed in out my book, I am timid in approaching certain instances in Mark because connecting it too much to the outside world could be construed as parallelism. But, there are times when things are truly parallel.

Look at the account of Petrus Ens and Peter Enns, both professors at Reformed institutions. Both were fired for teaching something other than the approved theology. In hundred years, or two thousand, would you say scholars researching Peter Enns are practicing parallelism?

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A different perspective on Thomas Brodie

That guy with the odd name that cannot be his own has written a post YOU ALL SHOULD READ. He writes, in part

Thomas Brodie gave a great display in intellectual honesty in the publication of his last book and he was crucified (ahem!) for it.

via It’s All Random…Mostly…: Thomas Brodie and Intellectual Honesty in Biblical Studies….

My friend is correct, of course. Brodie has led the way in intertextuality and while I disagree with his conclusions on the Historical Jesus, his work has pushed us in this still unrespected realm to new heights.

In the end, he was honest, finally, and he did pay the price.

I wonder how many positions, especially moral positions, people force themselves to uphold in order to retain an image or a job.

Anyway, give the article a read.

as a side note, I disagree with the blogger. i believe objectivity is achievable. 

How do you solve a problem like… Brodie fandom…

Think

Think (Photo credits: www.mysafetysign.com)

Update – Neil believes the fandom bit is about him and is a swipe — because he thinks everything is a swipe against him. In speaking about fandom, I am referring to myself. 

My new best buddy Neil has written a bit on my acceptance of Thomas Brodie‘s work in my book, Mimetic CriticismI called Brodie’s work a masterpiece among other things. When Brodie first announced, I considered retracting those comments, but I felt like it would be unfair. I had not read Brodie’s book (still haven’t). But the books I did read (Birthing the New Testament, Crucial Bridge) I thought and still think are monumental books. So why would I change my mind about his work which was relevant to my work?

Of course, the first few pages of Dennis MacDonald’s book (the one where he suggests Mark used Homer), are brilliant. Guess what? You don’t have to agree with someone’s conclusions in order to appreciate, learn from, or even accept their methodology. 

This is what I said to Neil:

Neil, I am at a loss for how to handle Brodie’s mythicism and I must admit it has made me reconsider the intellectual prowess of some mythicists. I haven’t read Brodie’s latest and might later so I cannot fully comment on my friend McGrath’s review.

I will stand by my remarks, which were written when his book was announced. I made the choice to go ahead and go with with them, even knowing what Brodie was going to say. (I had spoken with a someone who’d read the book in pre-pub)

As I said with DM, I can say about TB. His conclusions I do not support, but his methodology, research, and forward thinking ideas are gigantic and worthy of admiration. Brodie’s book, Birthing the NT, is outstanding, and I would use it in any NT class I taught. I do not think we should do Gospel Criticism without at the very least a long, heavy gaze towards Brodie’s work.

As I have stated in the recent past, the origin of the fact does not dismiss the fact. Brodie’s work on literary criticism of the New Testament has presented us a positive methodology, even if I disagree with his conclusions on the historical person of Jesus. I even disagree with some conclusions he has reached on the literary spring of the New Testament. But, this is the key to being an open-minded thinker. You do not have to accept every thing to accept some things. It is not an all or nothing world.

As far as commenting on McGrath’s review of Brodie’s work, I cannot. I haven’t read Brodie’s work.

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Is this another malfeasance of the Academic Community?

Father Thomas L. Brodie, recently out of the closet as a Jesus-mythicist, has been replaced at his teaching position.

According to documents seen by the Irish Sun, the veteran scholar was also banned from any lecturing, teaching or writing while a probe is under way…. (here - via The Irish Sun)

The online journal has a somewhat more interesting take, a take that looks really, really close to the Irish Sun.

Anyway… I am an admirer of Thomas Brodie’s work on mimesis; however, I think he has lost his focus and hold on the facts. My concern is the use of the term “rip-off.”

Anyway, Brodie has suffered a displacement, but is it unwarranted? Hardly. He was a priest, having taken oaths and certain vows to the Church and his Order which he in several ways broke. Added to this, this is a strictly confessional institution and the premise he is now publicly decreeing is directly against EVERYTHING the institution stands for. To me, this is like a professor at MIT teaching Young Earth Creationism. There is academic freedom and then there is taking away the conspiracy theory license.

Tough here… really tough.

Blogging my Book: Avoiding the trap of Parallelomania

Tom posted a link on my wall today from a favorite scholar of mine. Thomas L. Brodie has a new book coming out that details his decent into mythicism.

The work of tracing literary indebtedness and art is far from finished but it is already possible and necessary to draw a conclusion: it is that, bluntly, Jesus did not exist as a historical individual. This is not as negative as may at first appear. In a deeply personal coda, Brodie begins to develop a new vision of Jesus as an icon of God’s presence in the world and in human history.

Now, I have to agree with James McGrath here:

The very fact that some mythicists have been able to claim that the New Testament is entirely based on pagan myths, while others have been able to claim that it is entirely based on stories in Jewish Scripture, shows that people who want to find precursors will do so, and will find diverse and even mutually exclusive ones. So mainstream historical scholars will look forward to Brodie further illustrating this problematic aspect of the alleged case for mythicism.

Brodie’s book, Birthing the New Testament, is an outstanding read especially in regards to mimesis/imitation. The problem with all of this is that no one takes seriously (well, I mean no mythicist, but I mean, what do they take seriously?) the idea of contextualization, something playing a part in mimesis and human memory. Anthony Le Donne‘s book is a great place to start with this subject. Actually, both books are.

Going through my book, I have first attempted to establish that I am well aware of parallelomania, the idea that the Christian New Testament is nothing more than a poorly reconstructed collection of pagan myths and/or writings from the Septuagint. Second, I have shown how several instances are simply not parallel with others, and thus are most likely drawn from some historical tradition. Brodie’s complaint is against oral tradition, but the Gospels were written long after the oral tradition circulated. I do not need to look for oral tradition, only acknowledge that oral tradition existed before the Gospels were written. Paul is an example of one who sits in this tradition. So is Peter and a few others. To deny, then, oral tradition is to cut out a needed foundation for any study of the historical Jesus, and thus you are left with the idea that Jesus is only a collection of myths.

This is disheartening, to say the least, but is a stern reminder not to forget the very human authors of the Gospels, who, just like us, contextualized things according to their lexicon. What a shame when we so arrogantly think we can rightly separate the authors from their time.

Blogging my book: I’m living in an allusive paradox

English: The School of Athens (detail). Fresco...

English: The School of Athens (detail). Fresco, Stanza della Segnatura, Palazzi Pontifici, Vatican. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Yesterday, I was working on chapter 4 of my book. This chapter deals with mimesis and mimetic studies in the Gospel of Mark. Specifically, I am using Dennis MacDonald, Thomas L. Brodie, and Adam Winn. My beef with MacDonald is first and foremost his understanding of mimesis which is shaded only by Stephen Hinds. Hinds should have listened to Roger F. Thomas more. Anyway, Hinds argues that allusions aren’t easily seen or known by the audience.

Other new literary critics argue that authorial intent is not to be looked for.

So, allusions are sometimes just accident artifacts of the author.

My point in that portion of the chapter was to show that allusions are purposeful, and if purposeful, we can use them to look for authorial intent.

Then, the unthinkable happened. I was editing.

I edited myself into an accidental allusion to Plato’s Cave. The allusion to Plato’s Cave works because we are looking for a way out of the prison of forced interpretation, seeing things that aren’t there, and missing things that are.

So now… I don’t know what to do. I didn’t mean for the allusion to appear, but it did. Then, when it did, I realized that it worked really well. So now, I am keeping it. On purpose.

odd…

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Blogging my Book: “Wears a Green Carnation”

Actually… Oscar Wilde is mentioned in my book. But I was looking for a word that goes with some sub-headings in the work. Found this one. It’s in bold. It is also a scientific theory.

Comes from the fact that Oscar Wilde used to wear one.

Pretty boys, witty boys,
You may sneer
At our disintegration.
Haughty boys, naughty boys,
Dear, dear, dear!
Swooning with affectation…
And as we are the reason
For the “Nineties” being gay,
We all wear a green carnation. ”

—Noel Coward, 1929 , Bitter Sweet

I have thus far these three headings in discussing recent mimetic (or mimesis) studies in the Gospel of Mark:

  1. Dennis MacDonald and Mark’s Homer-textual Problem
  2. Thomas L. Brodie and Mimetic Reorientation
  3. Adam Winn and Textual Disintegration

Chapter 10, the conclusion, sums up some of the reasons for these devices. Thus far, I’ve been able to plug in Star Trek (although it may be mistaken as Shakespeare or another leveling group), Dr. Who, and even Lord of the Rings.

Book Announcement: Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark – Introduction and Commentary

Click to Order from the Publisher

Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013)

What if the story of Jesus was meant not just to be told but retold, molded, and shaped into something new, something present by the Evangelist to face each new crisis? The Evangelists were not recording a historical report, but writing to effect a change in their community. Mark was faced with the imminent destruction of his tiny community—a community leaderless without Paul and Peter and who witnessed the destruction of the Temple; now, another messianic figure was claiming the worship rightly due to Jesus. The author of the Gospel of Mark takes his stylus in hand and begins to rewrite the story of Jesus—to unwrite the present, rewrite the past, to change the future.

Joel L. Watts moves the Gospel of Mark to just after the destruction of the Temple, sets it within Roman educational models, and begins to read the ancient work afresh. Watts builds upon the historical criticisms of the past, but brings out a new way of reading the ancient stories of Jesus, and attempts to establish the literary sources of the Evangelist.

Order from the Publisher or Amazon.

 

Review: Mark and the Elijah-Elisha Narrative: Considering the Practice of Greco-Roman Imitation in the Search for Markan Source Material

Mark and the Elijah-Elisha Narrative: Considering the Practice of Greco-Roman Imitation in the Search for Markan Source Material

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This is not going to be a traditional review. I purchased this book, for my thesis work, which was inspired by Dr. Winn’s first work. This book has sat on my shelf for a while, waiting to be read in depth. Due to a recent review, I decided to spend some time with it. Of course, this work will help my own MA thesis, and my future dissertation. As a personal note, the first work by Winn has shaped my understanding of Mark, leading to independent research verifying, I believe, this view. This second work has strengthened my own work considerably, in my opinion. Frankly, I do not think you should begin to look at the Mark, and in many ways, the Synoptics and Acts, without reading Winn.

Introduction:

Since reading Adam Winn‘s first work, The Purpose of Mark’s Gospel, I have become intrigued with the use of Mark’s Gospel to counter Roman imperial ideology. Further, as I tested this theory on Mark 5.1-20, I discovered that Mark was employing mimetic rhetoric to counter the encroachment of imperialism into his community. In a 2003 work, Brian Incigneri, briefly mentioned mimesis as a possible motive of Mark’s imitation, but he classified this as an appeal to emotion (Incigneri, 2003, p53-55). This was not enough, as in my own explorations of Mark, a simple appeal to emotion was not the author’s primary purpose in using mimesis, especially as I tested the imperial ideological motif (per Winn) on other sections of Mark. In his second work, based on the completion of a post-doctoral fellowship under the direction of Thomas L. Brodie, Winn moves away from the imperial motif; however, what he does in return is to supply a set of strict criteria to all future interpreters of Mark that I believe can easily be incorporated into his previous monograph.

Purpose:

Before we progress, let me note that Winn’s purpose in this book is not an all encompassing survey of mimetic sources that Mark employs, although I will later note my problems with what appears to be a selective selection of sources and the hope that other sources will be considered as additional literary layers. Before the reader leaves the introduction, Winn gives the purpose of this work: “to build on the preliminary work already done by Brodie, and explore the possibility that Mark’s gospel is imitating the Elijah-Elisha narrative (10).” This book will also establish criteria for examining the use of imitation, especially in the Gospel of Mark. In my opinion, as a student of mimetic criticism, Winn’s criteria which he establishes must become the core criteria for any serious mimetic critic, scholar or student.

Structure:

Winn’s book is in nine short chapters (the book has about 119 readable pages), giving a succinct examination of his subject. Unlike those of us who are blessed with the gift of verbosity, Winn manages to accomplishes his goals in less time than I fear this review will take. We may divide these chapters into two parts. The first part deals with Mark and Imitation, and after setting the stage, he shows how imitation can be used to show that Mark made use of the Elijah-Elisha narratives to flesh out his story of Jesus. To break down the first part more, and will examine the criteria in a later part of this review, we see Winn reviewing recent additions to Markan studies made through Dennis MacDonald and Wolfgang Roth (chapter 2 and 3 respectively) after first examining an ancient use of imitation as used by Virgil (70 BCE – 17 BCE) as he refigured Homer for his Aeneid. While a mimetic scholar must make use of the material provide for by Winn in his dissection of Virgil, this is a weakness of Winn’s work here. Virgil is more than 80 years removed from Mark’s composition and there are those who are closer, in ideology and rhetorical technique than Virgil. However, Winn is able to use Virgil’s recomposition of Homer to establish his criteria securely.

Why is new criteria important? As Winn notes in his introduction, source, form and redaction criticism has left us with too strict a criteria in searching for literary sources (7). Through source criticism, Mark has been established as a priority, therefore, Mark’s sources are ignored. Form criticism focused on the oral traditions which supposed underlie Mark’s Gospel, something Brodie has shown to be an unusable hypothesis (although Winn makes the point to note that the search for literary sources does not demean the use of oral sources). Finally, redaction is maintained only with a sort of copy and paste method. These criterion are just too strict to actually get to Mark’s sources. So, Winn develops new criterion which include: (1) accessibility; (2) structural similarity; (3) shared narrative details; (4) verbal agreement (although he allows that imitation from one language to another may preclude this); and (5), how the use of these criterion are combined to show that imitation has occurred.  This criteria is important as Winn moves forward in his examination of both MacDonald and Roth’s positions on imitation in Mark.

Winn is able to make quick work of MacDonald’s position in which the latter scholars is sure that Mark used Homer. Here, the use of Winn’s criteria is important and is developed further to rely on “clear and obvious” examples (49-50) in preference to those which bare only a minute similarity. This method shows the faultiness of MacDonald’s resulting conclusions on Homer/Mark, but what Winn is careful to do is to show respect for MacDonald’s methodology, in that it was MacDonald who pioneered the use of mimesis in the study of the New Testament, even if other commentators believe he has gone too far. Winn sets out clearly why MacDonald’s examples fail which are generally due to failing the “clear and obvious” test created by the author himself. He does much the same thing with Roth’s work, although Roth’s work provides its own fodder for Winn. Where MacDonald provides for imitation in examining Mark, Roth provides the parallelism between Elijah-Elisha and Mark. Winn, however, suggests that Roth may be wrong on trying to use the narratives to interpret Mark’s use of the material. While not truly a weakness of Winn (as he noted, interpretation is not the goal of this present volume), the lack of finding purpose in borrowed material will continue to keep imitation from achieving its full potential, in my opinion.

In chapters 4 through 9, Winn puts his methodology to the test to reveal the Elijah-Elisha narratives as mimetically similar to several of Mark’s accounts of Jesus. His strengths here include the structural similarities shared between the two narratives, as well as the initial mention of Elijah in Mark 1.2-3 along with other Elijah-like material in Mark’s prologue (chapter 1). His one weakness here is the resurrection accounts shared between the two. I would have liked to see Winn focus his time spent on this area in developing other episodes, as this one leaves just a little bit too much lacking for me to be convinced of the sharing of this one episode. That both conclude with a resurrection, albeit one which is unknown and the other which doesn’t happen to the protagonist, doesn’t really satisfy all of Winn’s criteria. Yet, even in this weakness, there is still very much something to consider. Perhaps Mark received his abrupt storytelling methods from these narratives. Regardless, the testing of the criteria by the author shows that his methodology is readily applicable to New Testament studies , and I would go one to say that it is one of the most convincing of current critical methodologies, as he pays attention to things often missed by other commentators due to their strict criteria.

This is the most important book on mimetic criticism in print today. Winn introduces sound criteria. He tests Brodie’s hypothesis of a Markan imitation of Elijah-Elisha and moves it from this category to a theory, if not law, but examining episodic events in Mark next to passages from the narratives. He meets his criteria and, because of this, one has to begin to accept his criteria as legitimate, and what’s more, that mimetic criticism, pioneered by MacDonald, mitigated through Brodie and fleshed out by Winn, is a valid rhetorical tool to get to the literary sources of the Gospels, if not more of ancient texts. In regards to interpretation, he, as a scholar, leaves this for others to decide. As a student of Adam Winn’s work, I am more enthused with the course that his work has established in this volume than I was with the first, although they are intimately connected.

Reflection:

I am choosing to post the reflections separate from the actual review (which has been posted on Amazon with five stars) because of their nature.

As I mentioned above, there are several issues I have with the complete work.  First, the criteria is excellent, but I do find that it lacks one key aspect, purpose. If Mark is using the material only to tell a different story, which was allowable in the time and place of composition, then it may be that interpretation is unnecessary (that it is unnecessary is not Winn’s point); however, if the author is using imitation to create a different reality or to counter ideology, then this purpose will guide the interpreter into determining the lengths of imitation, the historical value of the final work, and quite possibly, the original sources including oral sources. I’m not saying that Winn is not interested in the purpose, but it was not included in the criteria. Unless we are willing to forgo any hope of understanding the initial reception of the work, we must add to Winn’s criteria the “why.” For Virgil, the reasons seem to be implicit. Homer was virtually Scripture to the Greeks. As Roman culture began to mimic Greek culture, Homer saturated the Latins. Using Homer, then, would have given Virgil’s poem of Roman ascendancy some cultural allowance in the minds of his audience that this was important, that his work was blessed by the gods. For Mark, Winn begins with 1.2-3 to suggest, and rightly so, that Mark has left enough clues for his audience that he is wanting them to keep in mind Elijah-Elisha; yet, no mention is made of his previous work, The Purpose of Mark’s Gospel, in which he has laid down the challenge meant by Mark 1.1. I find it disheartening that his previous work is mentioned twice, regulated to the footnotes. This is a bit disappointing to someone who sees a great value in this former work, and the strong connection between that one and this one. If you remove the establishment of purpose from the criteria, the mimetic critic may in fact miss several of the sources used by the author.

Another issue that I find in the work is the use of Virgil, and subsequently Livy (72n9), as if they are the closest to Mark’s cognitive environment. Now, I need to be careful here, because my own work on imitation in Mark has been shared with the author, and the section of possible influences, received what I would consider positive comments. I do not mean to imply that the author should follow my work or that this present volume is the end of his scholarship in this area. My intention in citing this issue, and I avoid calling it a weakness in the work, is just as I did above, to note that both of Winn’s works can easily be joined. Winn cites Walsh who noted that Livy (59 BCE – 17 CE) used but one source of imitation and added new detail. Virgil does almost the same thing, using Homer as a sole source, adding his new detail to the finished product. Yet, Lucan (39 CE – 65 CE), someone much closer to Mark, uses not one, but several mimetic sources, such as Virgil, Homer, and (his uncle) Seneca. After Lucan, the Roman poet Statius (45 CE – 96 CE) did the same thing. While Winn does not implicitly suggest that Mark uses only one source, his use of Virgil, and the note by Walsh on Livy, allows me to worry enough that Winn may see only one narrative source for many of these passages. I believe that Mark is following Lucan and others in combining several sources; however, in at least one passage, there is an implied multi-level use of sources being used by Mark to further tell his story. In Winn’s previous work, he has correctly identified the purpose of Mark’s Gospel. Yet, he doesn’t return to this purpose for clues as to Mark’s literary sources.

It is my hope that Dr. Winn will continue on with this course of thought and fulfill the words of the Preacher, that of the making of books there is no end, as I believe, through my own independent research, that both of his works will be continuously validated, open the doors for theologians seeking to draw from the text sincere meaning giving new hope to Christians today, and continue to show the masterful hand of the author of the Gospel of Mark. Thus, if there are to be continuous books, like some of them be by Winn.