Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Little More on Walter Bauer's Theory

In this blog post, I reviewed The Heresy of Orthodoxy. As a sort of follow up, here is somewhat useful paper on those who have adapted Bauer's views. Helpful it discusses Helmut Koester, recognized in the field of NT studies, but who received less attention Köstenberger and Kruger's book (hey, you can't get at everybody, and Ehrman and Pagels are far more popular).

Here's the basic contention of the paper:

The general validity of the Bauer Thesis was mostly accepted by peer reviewers in Germany immediately after the 1934 publication. Though he was criticized on several details of his evidence, his attack on the traditional, Eusebian view of early church history was regarded as valid. In other words, many scholars have disagreed with Bauer’s evidences, arguments, and answers concerning the development of orthodoxy and heresy, but they have generally agreed that the traditional view was untenable and that early Christianity was characterized by “radical diversity.”
In this paper I suggest that when the historians’ hands are called, the debate over unity and diversity in the early church can not resolve into less that two opposing positions: an emphasis on unity and orthodoxy on one hand, and an emphasis on diversity and conflict on the other. In the final analysis, two groups of scholars with two very different presuppositions are playing with one deck of cards and two sets of rules.

Or again:
[I]t is my view that such an “honest and critical” investigation into the origins of Christianity is virtually impossible to conduct apart from some confessional starting point. One’s confessional choice regarding the possibility or reality of a bodily resurrection greatly affects the hermeneutic and historiography of the scholar. His or her version of the “honest and critical” method only works if Jesus did not rise from the dead. If Jesus rose from the dead, that creedal position must be the starting point, otherwise the conclusions will be wrong. The principle is true, mutatis mutandis, if Jesus did not rise from the dead. Either way, every scholar necessarily begins the historical inquiry with some creed informing his or her historiography and hermeneutics.

This paper is helpful for those trying to get a run-down of the debate in this area of New Testament studies. It mentions the two biggest responses to Bauer: H. E. W. Turner's The Pattern of Christian Truth and Thomas A. Robinson’s The Bauer Thesis Examined.

No comments:

"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...