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Old 05-31-2001, 04:33 PM   #1
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Post Acts 2:1-21

In Charles Williamson's "Interpretation Bible Studies series on Acts" he writes the following concerning the incredibly diverse groups "getting the spirit" at Pentecost:

"This conglomeration of peoples is not only a diverse and pluralistic gathering of tourists, it is also a historically impossible gathering of folks. Consider the
Medes, for instance. They must have had a rather difficult journey to Jerusalem since they would not only have had to travel several hundred miles, but several hundred years as well, Medes having already disappeared from the canvas of history."


Williamson goes on to say that Luke intended the story parabolically: for Luke, "every nation under heaven" meant they were to be gathered together both geographically and historically to parcitipate in the great outpouring of spirit."

In this case he would seem to be agreeing with N.T.Wright--or was it Marcus Borg?--who once said that "Emmaus never happened--Emmaus is always happening." Or at least that is the dream.

Literalists and conservatives must take note, however, that this is just one man's opinion and he may be a progressive scholar (he probably is) rather than a fundamentalist/apologetic one. Given that, I still think that this view speaks to what I see as a lamentable disconnect from what the ancients really thought and acted in their world and how we do. The gospel writers knew what they were doing when they created these masterpieces. They are incredibly mythically dense and touch on many different levels.

It is hard for us to really and totally understand the psychological and religious typography across 2000 years and 5000 miles.

Some humility and respect is in order.


 
Old 05-31-2001, 05:26 PM   #2
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I agree that humility is required; we certainly should not claim to have a full understanding of the religious mind of the Jews and the Greeks of the 1rst Century. However...

You sure picked the wrong book of the N.T. to use as an example that the writers never intended their writings to be taken as literal history...look at the minute historical detail of Luke, and the prologue of both the gospel of Luke and that of Acts!
 
Old 05-31-2001, 06:15 PM   #3
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Red face

SWL: "Medes" was just a common way of referring to people from the region of Western Iraq, aikido7. For any commentator to assume that Luke was so dense as to refer to a nation long ago disappeared is insane. The problem is that you, enemy of literalists everywhere, are reading the passage in the most literalistic of ways. That's common amongst anti-Fundy crusaders. So often the problem is that they themselves read the Bible like literalist fundies.

And if Luke DID make such an enormous blunder, this would in NO WAY be support for the statement: "Emmaus never happened--Emmaus is always happening."

It would just be Luke making an historical error - a rather serious one. Serious historical errors don't amount to evidence for metaphorical intentions or genre-clues. That's just typical liberal spinelessness -"It would be wrong if I read it how its supposed to be read, so I'll say its right in some other way."

And who made the statement concerning Emaus? Wasn't Borg. Wasn't Wright. I'll give you a clue - He's about 3 feet tall, wearing a green suit and top-hat, you're on his shoulder, and there are cracker-crumbs everywhere.

SecWebLurker
 
Old 05-31-2001, 07:46 PM   #4
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by matt:
I agree that humility is required; we certainly should not claim to have a full understanding of the religious mind of the Jews and the Greeks of the 1rst Century. However...

You sure picked the wrong book of the N.T. to use as an example that the writers never intended their writings to be taken as literal history...look at the minute historical detail of Luke, and the prologue of both the gospel of Luke and that of Acts! </font>
The "many different levels" definitely include the historical, but certainly do not end there. That is the popular short shift given to the stories. They certainly have a historical core, but meaning and theology is where their truth comes from. And I probably DID pick the wrong book, since the nugget of Luke has already been layed out by Mark and Q at an earlier date.


 
Old 05-31-2001, 08:28 PM   #5
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by SecWebLurker:
SWL: "Medes" was just a common way of referring to people from the region of Western Iraq, aikido7. For any commentator to assume that Luke was so dense as to refer to a nation long ago disappeared is insane. The problem is that you, enemy of literalists everywhere, are reading the passage in the most literalistic of ways. That's common amongst anti-Fundy crusaders. So often the problem is that they themselves read the Bible like literalist fundies.</font>
Calling another poster or commentator "insane" or "paranoid" is an out of bounds breech of intelligence and manners. Should I be surprised at hearing that from you? A bit of didactic anger wells up inside me, the lesson being to show you first-hand the hurtfulness and dismissiveness of your tone: "Well, whatever floats the boat, man."

With that out of the way, some brass tacks:

Luke was not dense in the sense of being "stupid," but skeptics or fundamentalists who take him literally miss the profound density and depth of his message of the spread of the Spirit of the early Christians.


Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">And if Luke DID make such an enormous blunder, this would in NO WAY be support for the statement: "Emmaus never happened--Emmaus is always happening."</font>
Ben Witherington wrote in "Resurrection Redux" that "Easter never happened; Easter always happened." It should be "Emmaus never happened; Emmaus always happens." And it was Crossan who first thought of it, I think. Whoever said it--Borg or whoever--was making a distinction, I believe, between the surface historicity(a dead body comes to life after three days) and the metaphysical, theological meaning (Jesus' power is still available to his followers even after he has died).

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">It would just be Luke making an historical error - a rather serious one. Serious historical errors don't amount to evidence for metaphorical intentions or genre-clues.</font>
I contend that Luke did make a historical "error"--If one can equate fact and history for truth-- only if taken out of context from the gospels themselves. And that is something I refuse to do. I'll leave that to the literalists and the skeptics.

The "historical fact" of Mary's hymen being intact and yet still giving birth after being impregnated by the Holy Spirit is a historical "error" as well--and, I might add, a biological one. But that "error" still leaves room for a splendidly profound riff on the importance and meaning of Jesus.


Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">That's just typical liberal spinelessness -"It would be wrong if I read it how its supposed to be read, so I'll say its right in some other way."</font>
I think we all need to keep our hearts and minds open to continue to discover--for our age and the evangelists' age--just "how it is supposed to be read." We run into problems if we insist, say, on a literalistic and inerrant reading and also presume our understanding of a text is "inerrant" as well.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">And who made the statement concerning Emaus? Wasn't Borg. Wasn't Wright. I'll give you a clue - He's about 3 feet tall, wearing a green suit and top-hat, you're on his shoulder, and there are cracker-crumbs everywhere. SecWebLurker</font>
SWL, some of your comments and asides seem very sarcastic. Do you mean them that way? Passive agressive vituperation and jeering comments (and I am at the moment thinking of your mocking your friend Crossan's ethnicity--not to mention what I pick up from your posts concerning me) have been a hallmark of much of scholarly argument, but I plead with you not to feel compelled to descend into it with me.

The only way I can recognize this is that I have seen the planks in my own eye. My mother was sarcastic and angry all her life and I will always be her child, yet my awareness of it in myself has been my salvation and transformation. And I still need improvement and education about this, believe me.

But it would seem to me that Jesus' teaching on how we should deal with our opponents is not unclear in the least, whether you take him literally or metaphorically. Disagreement is inevitable, SWL, especially on this subject in which the stakes are so incredibly high for both sides. But we both need to pay attention to how we disagree. That will certainly facilitate the genuine understanding and healing that we took birth to acquire. And in a manner that actually repects the teachings and memory of Jesus.





[This message has been edited by aikido7 (edited May 31, 2001).]
 
Old 05-31-2001, 10:50 PM   #6
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Try to imagine what John or Matthew might have come up with if they, too, had written a parallel "second act" to Luke's gospel beyond their own....

I think Mark would have flatly refused, but why did not John or Matthew see the need that Luke saw for a second part?

 
Old 06-01-2001, 10:05 AM   #7
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aikido7:SWL, some of your comments and asides seem very sarcastic. Do you mean them that way?

SWL: Pretty much so.

aikido: Passive agressive vituperation and jeering comments (and I am at the moment thinking of your mocking your friend Crossan's ethnicity--not to mention what I pick up from your posts concerning me) have been a hallmark of much of scholarly argument, but I plead with you not to feel compelled to descend into it with me.

SWL: I tend to feel out the person I'm discussing something with and decide on my tone based on that. As far as Crossan goes, that's just my humor. Feel free to misinterpret it as you do everything else including the Gospels though.

aikido: The only way I can recognize this is that I have seen the planks in my own eye. My mother was sarcastic and angry all her life and I will always be her child, yet my awareness of it in myself has been my salvation and transformation. And I still need improvement and education about this, believe me.

SWL: My problem with you is not your sarcasm or your humor. Its exactly what you accuse me of: "Passive agressive vituperation and jeering comments". And I've had others contact me in private who've said the same things about your posts - whether or not you see it. Other than that, its your "the scholars that I accept uncritically and parrot are better than any other scholars" attitude, and your constant confrontational posts - all of which condescend to more conservative interpretations explicitly. I think its petty and childish, especially for a person of your age, but if its an opponent you want, you've got one.

aikido: But it would seem to me that Jesus' teaching on how we should deal with our opponents is not unclear in the least, whether you take him literally or metaphorically.

SWL: It would seem that way to anyone who's not really familiar with the Gospels or their context. Firstly, Jesus hardly goes easy on opponents - brood of viper, children of Satan?! Secondly, to use Jesus' standard methods of debate in modern society would be ridiculous. The 'honorable man' in agnostic cultures like that Jesus was part of customarily didn't even respond to challenges directly as it was thought of as conceding ground to the opponent. Use of typical agnostic debate tactics, like much of Jesus' dialogue in the Gospels, would be seen as red herrings or tu quoque ad hominem to modern readers.

aikido: Disagreement is inevitable, SWL, especially on this subject in which the stakes are so incredibly high for both sides. But we both need to pay attention to how we disagree. That will certainly facilitate the genuine understanding and healing that we took birth to acquire. And in a manner that actually repects the teachings and memory of Jesus.

SWL: I don't accept your appeals to Jesus as a standard for how any dialogue should proceed as I'm sure we both have entirely different opinions as concerns the specifics of who Jesus was, what He said, who Jesus is, and what He did.

gone surfing for the weekend...be back on Monday...

SecWebLurker
 
Old 06-03-2001, 12:19 PM   #8
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by SecWebLurker:
aikido7:SWL, some of your comments and asides seem very sarcastic. Do you mean them that way?

SWL: Pretty much so.</font>
Sarcasm conveys "hidden" anger and hostility. I am sorry you feel that way!

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">aikido: Passive agressive vituperation and jeering comments (and I am at the moment thinking of your mocking your friend Crossan's ethnicity--not to mention what I pick up from your posts concerning me) have been a hallmark of much of scholarly argument, but I plead with you not to feel compelled to descend into it with me

SWL: I tend to feel out the person I'm discussing something with and decide on my tone based on that. As far as Crossan goes, that's just my humor.</font>
Tending to "feel out" a person and asking them direct, pointed questions are two different things. I did not find the "humor" in your characterizations of Crossan, and I do not believe any native speaker of English would either. You and I have different standards of what is funny and what is not.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Feel free to misinterpret it as you do everything else including the Gospels though.</font>
I think your phrase "misinterpret it as you do everthing else" (my emphasis) is an unfair communication technique. Perhaps you mean to say I "often misinterpret things." I am sure that I do. If you can point out some specific instances then we can talk about them together...

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">SWL: My problem with you is not your sarcasm or your humor. Its exactly what you accuse me of: "Passive agressive vituperation and jeering comments". And I've had others contact me in private who've said the same things about your posts - whether or not you see it.</font>
I am certainly not aware that I have been vituperative, jeering or "passive agressive" but I certainly realize now that at least to you (and others unamed) I have been coming across like that. I apologize for any behavior like that on my part. That was certainly not my intention, but intentions don't matter much, other than to point the way toward a direction. Only results matter and if I have hurt your feelings in any way, an apology and a renewed sense of self-consciousness on my part is in order. Sorry! And, SWL, would you help me as well by bringing up specific instances when you feel this way immediately so we can get them out in the open and deal with them before they become a problem?

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Other than that, its your "the scholars that I accept uncritically and parrot are better than any other scholars" attitude, and your constant confrontational posts - all of which condescend to more conservative interpretations explicitly. I think its petty and childish, especially for a person of your age, but if its an opponent you want, you've got one.</font>
I think you misunderstand me and I have not communicated clearly. I know now that a lot of "baggage" has gotten in the way of a fruitful understanding between us, and I will certainly try to change what I am doing to attempt to make my questions clear and focused.

The question of who Jesus "really was" has produced a bewildering variety of answers. Most of the scholars I have read (and known) cannot agree on lunch, much less on the character of Jesus. I think the pervasive and vibrant post-modern paradigm we find ourselves entering into gives us all a growing understanding--or at least a fresh glimpse--of the ancient world and the society in which Jesus lived. Archeology in particular, but also sociology and anthropology--not to mention historical textual work once cut off from public discussion by systemic specialization--has given us new tools and lenses for everyone to grapple with a new meaning of what Jesus was about and how to make that meaning pertinent for our age.


Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">aikido: But it would seem to me that Jesus' teaching on how we should deal with our opponents is not unclear in the least, whether you take him literally or metaphorically.

SWL: It would seem that way to anyone who's not really familiar with the Gospels or their context. Firstly, Jesus hardly goes easy on opponents - brood of viper, children of Satan?! Secondly, to use Jesus' standard methods of debate in modern society would be ridiculous. The 'honorable man' in agnostic cultures like that Jesus was part of customarily didn't even respond to challenges directly as it was thought of as conceding ground to the opponent. Use of typical agnostic debate tactics, like much of Jesus' dialogue in the Gospels, would be seen as red herrings or tu quoque ad hominem to modern readers.</font>
This is really the problematic--and fascinating--part of Jesus research to me. What would the REAL Jesus do? What would he say? The answers to those questions will never be answered to everyone's satisfaction but asking them and trying our best to answer them is satisfaction enough for me. I tend to agree with most of mainstream scholars--both progressive and conservative--who think that parts of the gospels reflect a creative(and not untruthful)attempt to affix an ongoing meaning to his words and deeds that would fit within traditional strains in the culture of Judaism at that time.

I would like to hear more of the "honorable man"/agnostic discussion and specifically where I might find out more about it.

To end up for today, it seems to me pretty likely the gospel writers worked with a body of traditions about Jesus that had many points in common and were derived from the disciples who traveled and listened to him. So I consider it worthwile to look for the bedrock of authenticity that might be traced back to the human Jesus.

I think that "love your enemies" and "pray for those who despitefully use you" trumps "brood of vipers" and "children of Satan" anytime. There is the religion OF Jesus and then there is the religion ABOUT Jesus. I am interested in the former, and I believe in a Jesus who practiced what he preached.

There are conservative progressive scholars and conservative fundamentalist scholars. While I don't think that all conservatives are necessarily ignorant and fearful, I do think that most ignorant and fearful scholars (and people) tend to be conservative. And I do not intend to set up a heirarchy here: rather than putting progressives "at the top" and conservatives "at the bottom" we will all be better served if we can see that both have an understandably different domain of perception. This difference should not be couched in terms of value judgements.




aikido: Disagreement is inevitable, SWL, especially on this subject in which the stakes are so incredibly high for both sides. But we both need to pay attention to how we disagree. That will certainly facilitate the genuine understanding and healing that we took birth to acquire. And in a manner that actually repects the teachings and memory of Jesus.

SWL: I don't accept your appeals to Jesus as a standard for how any dialogue should proceed as I'm sure we both have entirely different opinions as concerns the specifics of who Jesus was, what He said, who Jesus is, and what He did.[/QUOTE]

But beyond the opinions and specifics are general patterns, just as there are valuable lessons in meaning behind proof-texting. Like it or not, this is an ecumenical age both within and without Christian faith. When literalists and progressives can talk to each other and listen to each other, it is the first step in understanding all of the many viewpoints with their own honor and their own respect. Another dimension to "love your enemies" is that on some level perpaps Jesus is reminding us that we need our opponents.




[This message has been edited by aikido7 (edited June 03, 2001).]
 
Old 06-04-2001, 02:44 PM   #9
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by aikido7:
Try to imagine what John or Matthew might have come up with if they, too, had written a parallel "second act" to Luke's gospel beyond their own....

I think Mark would have flatly refused, but why did not John or Matthew see the need that Luke saw for a second part?
</font>

aikido7-

There are a number of suggestive themes in Luke-Acts that all his story is of one piece. There is a repeated emphasis on salvation in Luke and Acts- the first being the appearance of salvation on earth in bodily form, and the second being the working out of salvation in the life of the church under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

That Luke uniquely portrayed that the foundation for the faith of the church in Acts lay in the happenings in his Gospel is no discredit to the other Gospel writers. As in his introduction to the Gospel, Luke is writing to show the firm foundation for the Christian faith (as he believes) and then to show the continuity of that faith with the early church. Each Gospel writer has his own unique emphases, obviously.

I might suggest that the other Gospel writers are obviously reaching out to different groups- John to the Greeks, Matthew to the Jews, and that their Gospels are focused on communicating the saving message of Christ in different ways.

Perhaps Luke alone recognized the need for an explanation, from the first apostles to the Christian church. "There is neither Jew nor Greek", and so perhaps Matthew and John did not write about the Greek's life in the church, or the Jew's life in the church, which did not exist. Christianity is a great democratizer in this regard. Luke certainly taps into this more global view of the faith in Luke-Acts.

Cheers,
Dan
 
Old 06-04-2001, 03:09 PM   #10
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aikido7-

What value judgments are permissible, according to your belief system? I'm trying to understand because I haven't heard a lot about good old-fashioned Good and Evil from you. It seems like there is a centripetal acceleration toward making other belief-systems relevant for our culture and our selves.

Where does your belief in that come from? You seem to accept that the post-modern paradigm is tied to our culture. Why is it then valid?

In particular, I find you accepting the validity of propositions about Jesus which fit into this paradigm- non-absolutism, tolerance. You refuse those which contradict your paradigm. Why should Jesus be tied to your cultural paradigm?

I find the same problem with Joseph Smith's "retranslation" of the Bible. Exactly at key proof-texts against Mormonism in the critical editions of the Greek New Testament, Joseph Smith rewrites the Bible without any textual support.

The only answer to this kind of pre-emptive argument is to produce the critical work that excludes the Mormon belief that the text has been irreplaceably altered in the course of transmission. I would add that it is the same kind of work which will prove or disprove your belief in a tolerant, unassuming Jesus.

Yours,
Dan
 
 

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