These are just some quick thoughts I typed out on my coffee break. This isn’t a thesis.
I have seen a few scattered comments in different online conversations that makes me wonder if there isn’t a “new” kind of fundamentalism sneaking around.
The comments are all along the lines of historical textual criticism and go something like this, “we can’t know if the real, actual, Jesus of history said what the Gospel says he said, so I don’t think I really need to take that saying all that seriously.”
Here’s an example of what I am talking about from a comment on an editorial by John Dear
“Thanks for the interesting article. Given the fact that the Gospels do not agree with one another as to Jesus' last words, and the fact that all of the Gospels were written decades after the event by people who were not present at the time, I am not at all sure that anyone knows what His last words really were..”
Yesterday in the Catholicism community on LJ someone went down a similar road and seemed to have come to the conclusion that if a saying in the Gospel couldn’t be traced back (without any doubt, mind you) to the historical Jesus that it probably wasn’t all that important and should be treated like a footnote. Ironically, this commentator got their information from a footnote and were treating the footnote with more gravitas than they were treating the actual scripture that the footnote was about.
Don't forget to add, that a lot of biblical scholarship (including the Q SOURCE) is theoretical. Yep, Q is a theory. No one has seen Q, no one has a copy, Q is an educated guess. I happen tho think its a good one because my teacher told me it was, but for all we know someday someone may come along and prove that Q is nonsense.
Forgetting that biblical scholarship is wildly theoretical, is like the Jesus Seminar on acid (and anytime you have Crossan in the room you don't need acid).
It all seems terribly wrong to me.
The first lesson that one learns when taking courses on how to study the scriptures is that they are not history the way we do history. Taken in its totality the Bible is a surprisingly complex collection of books, poems, rants, sayings, genealogies and even inside jokes. The Gospels ARE deeply concerned with the fact that Jesus was a historical person who lived in a specific time and place (this has been confirmed in other sources i.e., Josephus), but they are not presenting a biography of Jesus in the same way that we would write a biography of Oscar Wilde or Harriet Tubman or Sarah Palin. Part of the biography of the Gospels is to convey who Jesus was, but also What Jesus was and what the whole thing means to the readers in their time and place.
The ancient world had very different conceptions of history, and those conceptions were always in a certain degree of flux. The Athenians, for instance, saw factual history as being those stories that maintained their popularity. They didn’t want the dirt, they wanted the myth.
One of the challenges that came out of the sixties and seventies (spurred on initially by Marxists and Feminists and People of Color and best of all, Feminist Marxists People of Color) was the whole concept of the hermeneutics of suspicion. Basically, what this means is that one interprets and writes history/theology/politics from a given stand point and that stand point is “colored” by the social status of the person doing the history/theology/politics.
I kind of wonder, right now, what interests are being served by trying to gut the Gospel Message to a few “knowable” certifiable quotes that were spoken by the historic Jesus. What interests are served by taking an approach to history that is so anti Oral Tradition? Here’s a clue, it ain’t poor people.
In the comment I posted about, the idea seems to be that since we don't know what Jesus actually said, Fr. Dear's arguments in favor on nonviolence are somehow invalid because we don't know for sure if Jesus endorsed non-violence since we don't know what Jesus actually said because the author of the comment has a criteria that most scripture scholars would agree is actually impossible to satisfy. So, utilizing a "did Jesus really say it" fundamentalism, the critic is able to ignore the parts of the scripture they don't like while cutting it up with an exacto knife to get to the bits they do like.
or, in the finest tradition of fundamentalists everywhere we end up with something like:
I think in some ways one needs to think of the Gospels as being a bit like a Woody Guthrie song. He wrote about lots of people and the facts, such as they were, were accurate, but they weren’t always complete. The point though, of these folk songs, was to give people hope, inspire them, work them up and get them out. I bet Woody knew a lot more about Pretty Boy Floyd than he let onto in his song, but the point of the song was pretty specific.
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t go looking for the historical Jesus. I think we should. I think every body on the planet should do at least a little research on the question. What needs to be avoided though is slipping into the fault of thinking that those parts of the Gospel that are commentary on who Jesus was (I bet there is a really great German word for what I am trying to say here. Oh I know "DASEIN" ) and what he meant (over half of the text to be honest) are not inspired. That way lays madness. Don’t believe me ask Schweitzer.
Sounds like an excuse to watch Psycho.
So, am I the only one who thinks he's sort of hot?
Stephen Goldstein of Garden State Equality is a fucking idiot.
Honest, what a goddamned moron. Christie is about to throw you under the bus to advance his political career as an anti-gay opportunist and you say he doesn't have an "anti-gay bone in his body"?
Christ, I need to gouge my eyes out with a spoon.
As a follow up to yesterday's post I offer this link. He perfectly capture one of the experience I frequently have with Christianity.
I think it may change the way some of us want to vote.
In other news: I am convinced that if Gabbi Giffords had the same health care coverage and access as the average American she would be dead today.
In yet other news: Newt Gingrich? You have to be fucking with me.