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Old 08-13-2013, 12:30 PM   #11
andrewcriddle
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I'd like to invite further comment on this criterion, because, doing research into the historical Socrates, I'd like to be on the lookout for it in the literature. Plus there's the fun - and importance - of evaluating arguments about the historical Jesus.
If I was applying the criteria of embarrassment to the historical Socrates, then one possibility would be the close connection of Socrates and Alcibiades. This was potentially so damaging to Socrates' later reputation that I don't think it would have been invented.

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Old 08-13-2013, 12:31 PM   #12
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I'm certainly no historian, but it seems to me that the criterion of embarrassment is useful in some ways when trying to evaluate the authenticity of bits of historical texts. Here's one example. In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus says things like This generation will not pass away before the Son of Man comes in his glory. If you give a late dating to the Gospels, and if you also think that the sayings like the one I just mentioned are about the parousia, then it's hard to see why the writers of the Gospels would include such statements, since they (writing after Jesus' generation) would know that the world hadn't ended. If you affirm the antecedents of that conditional statement, then shouldn't you think they included the sayings because they were truthfully reporting what they received? That involves a lot of hypotheticals, but that's how it is with history.
Clearly Mark wasn't embarrassed by it, right? He doesn't attempt to cover it up or explain it away even though he believes Jesus to be the Son of God. Does Mark think the Son of God was in error here? I find that hard to believe. So there must be another explanation. I don't have the answer. Perhaps it is an unintended anachronism? Mark has Jesus speaking of Mark's generation rather than Jesus' own? I don't know. What I do know is that I don't think this would fit the criterion of embarrassment.
I don't know either. As I said, I'm no historian, so maybe I'm confusing the criterion with something else. My point was that it would be implausible to think that the writers of the Gospels, writing after Jesus' generation, would include something they knew to be false, and so interpreting those sayings as being about the parousia has got to be wrong. Maybe that isn't a good example of the criterion, but the sort of thinking it involves is similar at least.

Maybe a better example of the criterion would be the inclusion in some of the Gospels of Jesus' saying about not knowing the time of the parousia. You know the one: "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." It involves the assumption that its bad for Jesus to lack knowledge of anything. One could argue that it's really not so embarrassing when you look at some of the early church views of Jesus. But that's the nature of ancient history, right? It's so damn tentative. I don't know; I just think there's something right about this criterion, even if it's usefulness is limited.
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Old 08-13-2013, 12:56 PM   #13
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Clearly Mark wasn't embarrassed by it, right? He doesn't attempt to cover it up or explain it away even though he believes Jesus to be the Son of God. Does Mark think the Son of God was in error here? I find that hard to believe. So there must be another explanation. I don't have the answer. Perhaps it is an unintended anachronism? Mark has Jesus speaking of Mark's generation rather than Jesus' own? I don't know. What I do know is that I don't think this would fit the criterion of embarrassment.
I don't know either. As I said, I'm no historian, so maybe I'm confusing the criterion with something else. My point was that it would be implausible to think that the writers of the Gospels, writing after Jesus' generation, would include something they knew to be false, and so interpreting those sayings as being about the parousia has got to be wrong. Maybe that isn't a good example of the criterion, but the sort of thinking it involves is similar at least.
Why would you assume that it implausible that the gospel writers would include falsehoods? What do you know about the veracity of these writers? Why, if we assume that the gospel writers would change their source material, would we assumw that it is implausible that they would be rericent to include falsehoods? Not only that, but you have to wonder about the transmission of this material from the '30s to presumably the 70s at the earliest. At each step, would there be an assessment and evaluation of what is important to pass on and what could be quietly dropped from the recounting (the answer would be 'yes'). So what "Mark" writes down in the 70s is what has already survived several decades of transmission. How do we tell, at each stage, that the record has passed through reliable sources.

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Maybe a better example of the criterion would be the inclusion in some of the Gospels of Jesus' saying about not knowing the time of the parousia. You know the one: "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." It involves the assumption that its bad for Jesus to lack knowledge of anything. One could argue that it's really not so embarrassing when you look at some of the early church views of Jesus. But that's the nature of ancient history, right? It's so damn tentative. I don't know; I just think there's something right about this criterion, even if it's usefulness is limited.
That may be the case, but without a viable example, it is hard to say.
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Old 08-13-2013, 01:21 PM   #14
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Just finished reading Rafael Rodriguez' paper on the Crit of Em in Le Donne, book cited by Toto in #2 above. Rodriguez attacks Meier and other proponents of this Criterion for neglecting the fact that EVERYTHING in the gospels has already been interpreted. There is no way to detach "data" from the way the data are represented, even as "early" as in Mark. Reminds me of Nietzsche's "there are no facts, only interpretations." Everything in those works served "post-crucifixion theological and ideological perspectives" (R. accepts that there was a Jesus who was crucified). We deceive ourselves to think that something in there "embarrassed" the very people putting out those accounts. R. reminds us that even as early as Paul (he accepts the authenticity of most of the epistles, apparently), the "embarrassment" of the cross was a big selling point - Paul revels in it.

@Andrew - good point about Alcibiades as an embarrassment about Socrates. Too complex to get into here, but thanks for reminding me. I was thinking about Socrates' "by the dog," since it seems to have provided material for Polycrates' accusations, and that phrase in Plato tails off after having been common in supposedly early dialogues. But this will get us way off topic.
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Old 08-13-2013, 01:58 PM   #15
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Just finished reading Rafael Rodriguez' paper on the Crit of Em in Le Donne, book cited by Toto in #2 above. Rodriguez attacks Meier and other proponents of this Criterion for neglecting the fact that EVERYTHING in the gospels has already been interpreted. There is no way to detach "data" from the way the data are represented, even as "early" as in Mark.
Once a datum has entered a tradition, be that datum veracious or not, there is no way from within the tradition to decide whether it is veracious or not. It's all part of the received narrative that is passed on.
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Old 08-13-2013, 02:23 PM   #16
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Should it be looked at in depth to best analyze how to use it? Absolutely.
"in depth" ?? ... "to best analyze how to use it"??

It is a dubious methodology, so special pleading to try to retro-fit it to a scenario is disingenuous, at best.

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And from Meier himself.

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http://factlookup.com/article/Criter..._embarrassment

The criterion of embarrassment is an analytical tool that some Biblical scholars use in assessing whether the New Testament's accounts Jesus' actions and words are historically probable. John P. Meier, in his book A Marginal Jew, describes the purpose behind this criterion (p. 168):
The point of the criterion is that the early church would hardly have gone out of its way to create material that only embarrassed its creator or weakened its position in arguments with opponents. Rather, embarrassing material coming from Jesus would naturally be either suppressed or softened in later stages of the Gospel tradition, and often such progressive suppression or softening can be traced through the Four Gospels.
This is merely special pleading.

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This criterion is rarely used by itself, and is typically one of a number of criteria, such as the criterion of discontinuity and the criterion of multiple attestation, along with the historical method.
Yet both the 'criterion of discontinuity' and the 'criterion of multiple attestation' are also dubious. It's waffle
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Old 08-13-2013, 02:57 PM   #17
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Should it be looked at in depth to best analyze how to use it? Absolutely.
"in depth" ?? ... "to best analyze how to use it"??

It is a dubious methodology, so special pleading to try to retro-fit it to a scenario is disingenuous, at best.


This is merely special pleading.

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This criterion is rarely used by itself, and is typically one of a number of criteria, such as the criterion of discontinuity and the criterion of multiple attestation, along with the historical method.
Yet both the 'criterion of discontinuity' and the 'criterion of multiple attestation' are also dubious. It's waffle
.
Rodriguez and others argue that the criterion of embarrassment is actually a species of the criterion of discontinuity.
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Old 08-13-2013, 03:51 PM   #18
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I don't know either. As I said, I'm no historian, so maybe I'm confusing the criterion with something else. My point was that it would be implausible to think that the writers of the Gospels, writing after Jesus' generation, would include something they knew to be false, and so interpreting those sayings as being about the parousia has got to be wrong. Maybe that isn't a good example of the criterion, but the sort of thinking it involves is similar at least.
Why would you assume that it implausible that the gospel writers would include falsehoods? What do you know about the veracity of these writers? Why, if we assume that the gospel writers would change their source material, would we assumw that it is implausible that they would be rericent to include falsehoods? Not only that, but you have to wonder about the transmission of this material from the '30s to presumably the 70s at the earliest. At each step, would there be an assessment and evaluation of what is important to pass on and what could be quietly dropped from the recounting (the answer would be 'yes'). So what "Mark" writes down in the 70s is what has already survived several decades of transmission. How do we tell, at each stage, that the record has passed through reliable sources.

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Maybe a better example of the criterion would be the inclusion in some of the Gospels of Jesus' saying about not knowing the time of the parousia. You know the one: "But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." It involves the assumption that its bad for Jesus to lack knowledge of anything. One could argue that it's really not so embarrassing when you look at some of the early church views of Jesus. But that's the nature of ancient history, right? It's so damn tentative. I don't know; I just think there's something right about this criterion, even if it's usefulness is limited.
That may be the case, but without a viable example, it is hard to say.
I definitely do assume that the writers of the Gospels did not want to tell obvious falsehoods to their readers. If for no other reason (but other reasons abound) than that it would make them look bad. Maybe they were mistaken in what they believed, but it's not a live option (for me) to think that they didn't care about the truth. So I think that, if we assume them to be late, those sayings of the sort I mentioned couldn't have been about the parousia, even though some of them appear to be at first glance.

To the second point, I did give you an example: the saying about Jesus not knowing the precise time of the parousia. Another one would be the mysterious cry on the cross, "Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?" Another might be be Jesus saying, "why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone."
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Old 08-13-2013, 03:54 PM   #19
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Rodriguez and others argue that the criterion of embarrassment is actually a species of the criterion of discontinuity.
and the criterion of discontinuity is also called 'the criterion of dissimilarity' or 'the criterion of double dissimilarity'

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criterion_of_dissimilarity


It's all nonsensical and draws attention away from proper 'scholarship'

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"The criterion of dissimilarity from Christianity (CDC) is frought with similar difficulties as the criterion of dissimilarity from Judaism (CDJ). The criterion seeks to distinguish the authentic Jesus material from that originating later from the early Church by highlighting material dissimilar to Christianity. Closely related to this tool is the criterion of embarrassment.

"In the first place, these tools suffer from one of the problems the CDJ faces: [COLOR="rgb(139, 0, 0)"]we do not possess a complete knowledge of early Christianity[/COLOR] thus making it impossible to really render a sure judgment that a particular idea or teaching is dissimilar to Christian belief.

"Moreover, the CDC seems undermined by one of the very form-critical presuppositions on which it operates, namely, the assumed creative capacity of the early Church."

http://www.thesacredpage.com/2008/09...larity-to.html
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Old 08-13-2013, 04:49 PM   #20
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I'm certainly no historian, but it seems to me that the criterion of embarrassment is useful in some ways when trying to evaluate the authenticity of bits of historical texts. Here's one example. In the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus says things like This generation will not pass away before the Son of Man comes in his glory. If you give a late dating to the Gospels, and if you also think that the sayings like the one I just mentioned are about the parousia, then it's hard to see why the writers of the Gospels would include such statements, since they (writing after Jesus' generation) would know that the world hadn't ended. If you affirm the antecedents of that conditional statement, then shouldn't you think they included the sayings because they were truthfully reporting what they received? That involves a lot of hypotheticals, but that's how it is with history.
When the writer of Mark has Jesus saying "this generation shall not pass away" is the comment meant to reproduce something Jesus said, or to instruct the current generation of believers in the writer of Mark's own time?

Your comment also assumes that the writer of Mark intended his text as history. That is only how later readers came to regard it.

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