Daily Archives: 2008-01-20 15:41:42 UTC

The GOOD legacy of a fundamentalist and cultic life: 4

Understanding Gentleness

Marlene Winell discusses this legacy as something derived from the model of Jesus, as an anti-dote to much of the traditional western socialization of males to be aggressive, in control, independent and rational, pursuing power and success. She recalls observing Christian men, on the other hand, submissive to the model of the humility and openness of Jesus, coming across as more sensitive, humble and able to openly express their feelings than commonly found among non-Christians.

I can’t argue with the experiences of others. My memory was that Jesus was more often seen as the aggressive, in control, independent and rational type, being born to rule and conquer. But when I think about it I do recall the impact of dwelling on those verses that enjoined fathers not to provoke their children to wrath, and for husbands to love, “nourish and cherish” their wives as their own bodies. And then there were those warm verses about God gently caring for his own and a man being like a shady rock in a parched desert. And especially verses like those in Philippians requiring us to be like-minded, doing nothing through ambition and conceit, but “in lowliness of mind esteeming others better than ourselves”, to look out for the interests of others, not just our own interests. No doubt such meditations did serve to help bring out the softer side of the men. There was no doubt a negative side to some of this insofar as such a mindset also encouraged too much submission and acceptance of nonsense.

And of course there was always the emphasis on forgiveness, compassion and understanding for those we needed to forgive.  And above all, reflection on one’s own responsibility and self-examination in all relationships — if an offence had occurred, to what extent were we ourselves responsible? And the notion of winning over others by doing good.

So maybe I have to concede Marlene is right about this one even in my case.  She concludes this section:

With God in charge, there wasn’t the same need to be strong, macho, and in control. Both men and women could be more honest about their weaknesses and shortcomings. This humanness is part of your legacy as well.

See the Winell archives for earlier posts in this series

See also Recovery from Religion

The anti-Marcionite character of the Pastoral epistles?

Since Marcion is assumed to be “anti-Jewish” it seems nonsense at first blush to associate his “heresy” with the “Jewish error” in the Pastorals. But in fact what Marcion rejected was the typographical or allegorical reading of the Jewish scriptures. He read them literally and was accused of believing a form of Jewish error. See my previous post on Literal and allegorical scriptures in orthodoxy and heresy. But to start from the beginning . . . .

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Reviewing Marion Soard’s review of Pervo’s “Profit with Delight”

woops — i originally spoke of marion as a “she” — thanks to a respondent i have been able to correct my gaffe. there is less gender confusion when one consults marion’s (marty’s) homepage. (note added 24/jan/07)

Christopher Price draws on Marion Soards’ review to dismiss the argument of Richard Pervo’s Profit with Delight as being without merit:

Professor Soards points to additional examples of such historiography that Pervo overlooks or downplays:

[S]cholars have long recognized that one of the goals of ancient historians was to please their readers. . . . The presence of entertaining or pleasing elements in an ancient work does not automatically mean that it is not history. Yet Pervo takes this position. He is able to do so largely by ignoring this characteristic in ancient historiography-for example, it is remarkable that while Pervo mentions Thucydides (only!) five times in his study, he completely ignores Herodotus, “The Father of History,” who writes in a lively, engaging, entertaining, and even fantastic manner-not unlike the author of Acts. Similarly, Pervo refers several times to Lucian of Samosata and Xenophon of Ephesus, but he brings Dionysis of Halicarnassus into the study only twice; Polybius, once; and Sallus, three times. Many – perhaps most or all – the common characteristics Pervo identified between Acts and the ancient novel may be located in these ancient historians whom Pervo basically ignores.

Marion Soards further writes (although not cited by Price):

Indeed, Pervo’s case that Acts is novelistic is made largely from Luke’s own lively style and from the inclusion of accounts of miracles in the narrative. But any reader of Herodotus knows that all ancient historians were not as skeptical about the miraculous as was Thucydides; the fact that Acts tells of miracles which Pervo cannot believe occurred is no reason to identify Acts as a novel. . . .

Pervo has far from made an ironclad case for identifying the genre of Acts as the ancient (historical) novel.

Perhaps Price was swayed in how he read Pervo by first reading Soards’ comments. Perhaps he read Profit with Delight by means of injecting into it Soards’ strangely baseless criticisms.

Soards wrote:

The presence of entertaining or pleasing elements in an ancient work does not automatically mean that it is not history. Yet Pervo takes this position. (pp 308-9)

Yet we have already seen (in the previous post re this topic) that simply not true. Pervo quite simply does not “take this position”. He explains in Profit with Delight :

Although clearly a theological book and a presentation of history, Acts also seeks to entertain. (p. 86)

I hope that it is by now clear that relating Acts to ancient novels is hardly a means for writing the book off for being fiction, least of all, pure fiction. (p.122)

My intent is that such comparison proceed alongside, as well as in competition with, investigations using historiographical models. Description of Acts as a historical novel does not imply that the author concocted it from thin air. Reconsideration of the question of genre does not eliminate the possibility of sources. (p.137)

Soards develops his misplaced criticism:

Many — perhaps most or all — the common characteristics Pervo identified between Acts and the ancient novel may be located in these ancient historians whom Pervo basically ignores. (p.309)

This misses the very point of Pervo’s thesis:

Although few would quibble at the description of the Gospels and Acts as “popular,” most studies have concentrated upon the profit and ignored the delight. . . . A major task of this book is to elucidate the entertaining nature of Acts. Since one customary means for rejecting popular literature has been to label it pure entertainment, I wish to make clear that there is no intent here to deny Luke’s serious theological program. . . . Through comparison of Acts with ancient popular narratives I seek not only the identification of literary affinities but also clarification of the religious and social values of the milieu in which it emerged. (p. xii)

By reference to novels in general and historical novels in particular I have attempted to provide detailed evidence for the ancient novel’s relevance to the understanding of Acts. My intent is that such comparison proceed alongside, as well as in competition with, investigations using historiographical models. (p.137)

Soards’ complaint also misses the details of Pervo’s monograph when he explains that the same motifs can be found in ancient histories. Pervo explains:

Probably not one of the themes, motifs, or modes listed in this section [Pervo has just listed 5 pages of typical features found in ancient novels] does not have numerous attestations in other genres. One cannot define literary categories by typical features alone. They are helpful aids to subclassification and comparison. Reference to them enables appreciation of both the diversity and the sameness of the prose fiction produced by the ancients, revealing the potential of the genre for absorption and development. The sheer number of elements refutes any suggestion that ancient novels were written to a single formula. What is fundamental, however, is the manner in which these themes, motifs, and modes were put to use in the creation of novels. I now turn toward an examination of these works in terms of their social settings, their functions, and the characteristic understandings of life displayed in them. (p.110)

Soards wrote:

Indeed, Pervo’s case that Acts is novelistic is made largely from Luke’s own lively style and from the inclusion of accounts of miracles in the narrative.

It should be clear from the preceding extract from Pervo that this is over simplification to the point of outright misrepresentation.

Soards compared Herodotus:

But any reader of Herodotus knows that all ancient historians were not as skeptical about the miraculous as was Thucydides

Apart from this being a non sequitur in relation to Profit with Delight, any reader of Herodotus knows that Herodotus as a rule expressed two minds about any supposed miraculous event.

Soards concludes:

Pervo has far from made an ironclad case for identifying the genre of Acts as the ancient (historical) novel.

As Thomas Phillips observes in “The Genre of Acts: Moving Toward a Consensus?” (Currents in Biblical Research, 2006, 370)

Although Pervo is often sharply criticized for classifying Acts as an ancient novel (e.g. Walker 1989), he never made a complete equation between the genre of Acts and the ancient novel. His research did, however, highlight both what he regarded as strong parallels between the ancient novel and the book of Acts and what he considered a fruitful point of comparison for subsequent research. Although such comparisons were already in their infancy (e.g. Schlierling and Schlierling 1978; Praeder 1981) before Pervo’s eloquent apology for rethinking the fictive nature of Acts, in the wake of Pervo’s monograph comparisons between Acts and ancient novels became increasingly common in leading peer-reviewed publications (e.g. Dawsey 1989; Alexander 1995; Ascough 1996; Harrill 2000; Schwartz 2003).