An Interesting Discovery to Start the New Year

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by Neil Godfrey

While sorting through some papers that have been stored away in a shed for many years I came across a reminder of something I heard long ago and really liked at the time, and still do. It was a forum post to the Crosstalk2 list, a forum scholars discussing the historical Jesus and Christian origins (my bolded emphasis).

Vernon K. Robbins

From: “Vernon K. Robbins” <relvkr@L…>
Date: Mon Feb 24, 2003 10:58 am
Subject: We Sea Voyages—Troas to Rome

February 23, 2003

Dear XTalkers,

I have become aware that there is a divide in the audience of XTalkers between people interested in learning new things about the relation of early Christian texts to the world of antiquity and people whose primary interest and love is debate. Both kinds of interests are, of course, unending for those who have them. Most of you will know that my interests focus on learning new things. I have no illusion that my interests will satisfy the goals of debaters. I presume that the goal of debaters is to debate. My primary goal is not to debate but to learn new things. Or to put it another way. I am interested in debate only when it is a medium for learning new things. For me, debate is not so much a manner of “persuasion” as it is a matter of “finding” things we, have not seen before. Debate is truly interesting when all parties are “looking at the data together.” In all of this, I am deeply informed by Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which explains how people following one “paradigm” of inquiry often wiil “totally” discount the primary evidence of people following another paradigm of inquiry.

. . . . . .

Vernon K. Robbins, Emory University

Happy New Year to all Vridarians! May we continue to debate in the spirit of Vernon K. Robbins.

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Neil Godfrey

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  • Booker
    2019-01-01 05:44:59 UTC - 05:44 | Permalink

    Happy New Year Neil!

  • JBeers
    2019-01-01 09:37:27 UTC - 09:37 | Permalink


    Interesting (to me) and relevant to the discussion that the word ‘argument’ in the sense of a proposition that someone presents, a thesis or hypothesis, can have two rather distinct meanings. People coming across someone’s argument may interpret it either way.

    1. Verbalization intended to win over or to gain debating points, or to goad or otherwise provoke in a malicious way.
    2. A point presented for consideration in hopes of greater understanding as dialog unfolds. The argument’s presenter may or may not like the argument or may be unsure. (In this sense the word is a bit like the ‘argument’ in mathematics–one plugs it into an equation and sees what comes out.) It can be the playful and well-intended equivalent of goading. Curiosity tends to be a big motivator here, not narrow-mindedness.
  • zdenko pajnić
    2019-01-01 11:55:17 UTC - 11:55 | Permalink

    Dear Neil
    Happy New Year !
    Wish you many good health care, success and happiness in the approaching New Year.
    Happy New Year to all Vridarians!
    Zdenko Pajnić, from Belgrade

  • Marty
    2019-01-02 12:29:40 UTC - 12:29 | Permalink

    “I am deeply informed by Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which explains how people following one “paradigm” of inquiry often will “totally” discount the primary evidence of people following another paradigm of inquiry”.

    Amazing that we as a people can progress at all. But, surely we do at a very slow pace.

    Happy New Year!

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