Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Jason Pratt responds to Steven Carr

Since there isn't much connection between Steven's various complaints,
I'll be taking them somewhat out of order.

Presumably , Jason is now going to rewrite what Paul says by adding
words not found in the Greek. He is now going to say that Paul wrote 'it is sown a natural body. It
is raised a spiritual body'. But there is no 'it' in the Greek."

The sentence Steven refers to is 1 Cor 15:44a, and reads in the Greek
(with no significant textual variation in the critical apparatus):
"spleiretai so_ma psuchikon egeiretai so_ma pneumatikon."
(I've put an underscore to differentiate the omega from the omicron.)

I am supposing that Steven is aware that in koine Gree, the subjects of
verbs (especially as pronouns) frequently don't exist in sentences, and
are implied by the suffix of the verb. If he wasn't aware of that when he
made his complaint, then his attempt at a point is utterly negated (since
that would be the first answer.)

Having said that, I suppose the sentence could be translated "A soulish
body is sown, a spiritual body is raised." I would have no objection,
though the grammar still may not parse out as well as "It is sown...it
is raised." (I'm slightly iffy about whether the form of 'soma' can match
grammatically with 'spleiretai' as subject to verb.)

In any case, if Steven would render the sentence "A soulish body is
sown, a spiritual body is raised" (with the noun as the subject of the verb
instead of serving as a predicate nominative object); then how does he intend
to translate the previous phrases which this sentence serves as a parallel
summary to? It is simply impossible to cogently render "spleiretai en
phthera egeiretai en aphtharsia" with the 'sown' and 'raised' verbs
meaning anything other than "It is sown; it is raised": the nouns, here and
afterward, clearly belong to the preposition "en" (English 'in').

More shortly: even if the meaning of v.44a can be read with 'body' as
the subject, it provides no positive support for Steven's contention; and
doing so would conflict with a series of immediately preceding phrases where
the exact same verb forms have to be meaning an equivalent to English 'it
is verbed'--and where complaints about "adding words to Paul" become
totally spurious.

Steven certainly seems to be admitting that if 44a is to be read (in
parallel with the meaning as the previous phrases have to be read) 'it
is sown...it is raised', then the case for Paul not meaning the same body
is in ruins. But I find it to be more interesting, that Steven is hanging
so totally on Paul not meaning the body itself was raised--why not simply
accuse Paul of lying about the body? That would synch a whole lot
better with the clearest meaning of what is written; and it isn't like Steven
has any reluctance to make such accusations in other cases.

"What Paul does say is 'You do not plant the body that will be'."

I could be facetious and point out that there is no "you", "do", "that"
or "will" as words in the phrase Steven has quoted, with the conclusion
that Steven is simply adding in whatever words he wants to get the meaning
he wants--but I suspect that no opponent (Steven included) would consider
that to be a respectable objection for even a single moment. At least,
they'd be entirely correct to dismiss such an objection is being spurious,
possibly even as being merely contentious.

Besides, I'm isn't like I'm desperate to save my position. {g}

As it happens, I don't even consider the quote to be a threat to the
position traditionally understood here. Paul makes it as clear as he
possibly can, later in the chapter, that what is sown will be _changed_
into the new body: indeed, that sooner or later this is going to happen
even to bodies which _haven't_ been sown. And, he makes _exactly_ the
same point where Steven just quoted (1 Cor 36b-37): "What you are sowing is
not being brought to life if it should not be dying. And what you are
sowing, you are not sowing the body that shall be coming to be, but an
unclothed kernel, such as of wheat or something like that."

Put into a bit straighter English: 'What is being sowed is what will be
brought to life, but first it has to die. And when it is sowed, it
isn't yet what it will become, but is only an unclothed seed.'

Now, we can make fun of Paul's 1st-century Palestinian notion of
herbology, if we like--namely, that the seed will be clothed in the plant that
will be coming. But that's the analogy he's working from, and that's how he
ends out as well: "For this corruptible must be _putting on_ incorruption,
and this mortal be _putting on_ immortality. And whenever this [happens,
repeating the phrases], then shall come to pass the word which is
written [etc.]" (1 Cor 15:53-54)

The same body that is dying, then, and being buried, is being brought
to life again in the resurrection, clothed in an immortality which will
swallow up the death. In order for the "flesh and blood" to enjoy the
allotment, it has to be _clothed_, as "this corruptible must be putting
on incorruption".

The body is being changed into something it wasn't before. The plant
doesn't leave the seed behind (whether or not exactly as it was when it
was planted) and go off to do its own thing: the seed _becomes_ the plant.

"Paul would have known, that a seed is discarded. The whole point
of separating the wheat from the chaff is to keep one and discard the

Paul would have known that the chaff-and-wheat is an entirely different
metaphor, which has nothing in the least to do with a seed being buried
in the ground and creating a new plant.

Come to think of it, Paul would also have known that the whole point to
separating the seed from the chaff (in its own proper metaphorical use)
is not to discard the seed. (It's hard to believe Steven was paying
attention here: what was supposed to be the point of keeping the chaff, again, in
relation to 1 Cor 15???) In fact, he would have known that the seed is
not discarded in the metaphor he _was_ using, either. The seed _becomes_
the plant.

Beyond all this (which could be detailed rather further): as I
mentioned in a previous letter (on which there may be some reply by now), the
advocates of the notion that Paul was not talking about a dead body being
transformed into something new and raised, still have to account in their theory
for two rather difficult things (even aside from a close contextual reading
of the passage). If Paul is so comfortable with this notion, and is trying
to teach it--then what exactly is it he is so sharply admonishing the
Corinthians about? (The standard attempts to defend this hypothesis
leave Paul in the peculiar position of defending _and_ attacking basically
the same thing in the same chapter! Something other than the standard
defense is required, at least.) And second, if this notion was such an easy
option for Jewish Christians (much moreso Gentile ones) to take, then why
_didn't_ they in fact take it?--for the missing body is a key feature of all four of
the earliest story-accounts which mention a Resurrection at all.

There are simply too many problems, at too many levels, for me to
accept this as being a live option of interpretation.

I suspect that the reason these problems are elided past, by
con-apologists, is because they've been told so often that Paul's
testimony on the subject constitutes definitive proof of the Res (or at least of
a missing body), that any stick looks good enough to beat that idea with.
(I have an even stronger suspicion that much the same is true about how
pro-apologists frequently use the reference to the 500 witnesses; I
cringe every time I hear or read the typical use of it. That's a lot of
cringing... {g}) If it is any consolation, that is _NOT_ what I am
trying to argue here. I think the most reasonable conclusion to be drawn,
without overreaching the position, is:

Paul was teaching the Resurrection and transformation of dead and
buried bodies, specifically Christ's and anyone who dies in Christ; a teaching
he claims to have received as being authoritative and of first importance,
and which he claims to have already taught the Corinthians (who at the time
accepted what he was passing along, though now he's hearing they're
believing something different, which he's opposing)--a teaching he says
the previous apostles and leaders in the church are teaching.

The first (and possibly only) extension to this claim, from 1 Cor, that
I myself would make, is a connection to the situation (and person) Paul
is writing against in the whole first six chapters of the same letter.

"None of the early Christian creeds found in Paul have a
resurrected Jesus walking the earth or having a flesh and bones body."

Perhaps not; but neither do any of the creeds found in Paul have a
resurrected Jesus either walking the earth or appearing spiritually
having left his flesh and bones body behind--do they?

"If they had believed in a resurrected Jesus walking the earth, or
having a flesh and bones body, they would have said so."

Ditto. If it counts against me, it counts against Steven, too.

"The creeds summarised what they believed."

'was buried, was raised.' Can hardly be more summary than that. Paul
can unpack and expand on it; without requiring the kind of convolution of
thought involved in going from the basic meaning of that, to 'was raised
but what was raised was not what was buried; that stayed etouffed {g}
in the ground unchanged'.

Moving on:

"We have not one word from Jews saying this unbelievable story that
the Roman guard agreed to say that they were sleeping on duty (so
consigning them to the death sentence)."

Not that I expected Steven to pay attention to subtleties (and given
how briefly I mentioned it, he has some excuse for that this time); but I
didn't reference the part where the guard _agreed to say_ this.

I _do_, in fact, have a pretty good understanding of religious (and
anti-religious) polemic--a better understanding than Steven does of the
use of chaff and metaphor {g}--which is exactly why I conclude that the
core of the GosMatt polemic makes no plausible sense unless two antithetical
traditions were agreeing a body was missing. (The recent Pilate example
on the SecWeb, though colorful, is not really a good parallel; but I would
have to go into a lot of detail before that could become apparent, so I
don't blame Stephen for drawing it.)

Since it would take a while to go through the various options with an
eye toward assessing their historical plausibility, I'll save that for a
subsequent letter. (It isn't something to be briefly waved off, any
more than it can be briefly presented--a close analysis of options and
implications took me something like four chapters to go through.)

And, of course, Paul is clear in Galatians 6 that observance of the
law (not resurrection) is what was at dispute between Christians and Jews.

Um. I have no idea what this was supposed to do with anything in Part 1
of my letter. Did Paul write ("with what size letters, with my own hand")
that the disputes between Christian and Jew had nothing to do with the Res?
Not in any text of Galatians, or textual variant, _I_ know about. (Talk
about adding words to Paul...)

I suspect this was supposed to be a comment to Part 2 of my letter, and
Steven simply missed his aim. In which case, is he trying to say that
if Jews and Christians (assuming Paul is talking about a dispute with
non-Christian Jews) are disputing about observance of the law, then
they can't be, or couldn't have previously been, or couldn't subsequently be
disputing, about whether someone stole the body? (If so, I think I'll
simply reply that it's good thing I don't have to rely on logic like
that for _my_ side of such debates... But he's welcome to clarify himself if
he wishes.)

It _is_ rather interesting that no (extant canonical) text preserves
something like the GosMatt polemic. (I can bring that up myself
directly--better than vague references to Galations 6, yes?) It's a
fact which does have to be taken into the account, sooner or later; and I
think it's a pretty important fact. But it still leaves the oddity of the
polemic exactly where it is.

OK, I give up, why didn't they just fake showing a body?

It's quite an intriguing question, once one arrives at it. And I didn't
bring it up just for kicks. I think it has an important place in the
overall picture. But it isn't something that should be used simply in
abstraction from the overall picture. (Though I'm sure it'll be used
that way by the uncautious. I have an idea of where it fits in, but I'd
rather think about it for a while.)

I may start running abridged or summarized drafts of book chapters by
Victor for possible posting. That may be the best way to cover the
initial issues of what can be learned from the existence of the GosMatt polemic.
(There are subsequent issues related to it, too; but I think those
should wait until other pieces are considered in the interim.)



Jason Pratt said...

Opps--"Gree" error. {g} (Think I misspelled Galatians wrong, too, somewhere in there.)

I mention a 'previous' letter in there somewhere, but it hasn't been posted up yet. It's a clarifying followup to Parts 1 and 2; and I'll append it as a comment below. (Victor certainly has my permission to give it a main posting if he wishes, too; and I thank him for the consideration he's given me on this matter.)


I chose to edit out much of the point to my previous letter (posted by Victor in two parts over the final weekend of April 2006), in order to bring it down to a feasibly postable length.

The main point to my previous letter, wasn't simply to shoot down a selection of various sceptical hypotheses and claims as presented by Keith. Indeed, I necessarily had to treat some topics even more briefly than he chose to do in _his_ letter. My main intention was to illustrate that con-apologist theories need large-scale coherency as much as pro-apologist theories do. It isn't only that I routinely find this lacking in con-apologetics (the topic in this case being the Resurrection). It's that I routinely see things which indicate that a large-scale coherency to their own positions isn't even being seriously thought about by the con-apologists.

Hypothesizing alternate explanations for pieces of the picture, has to pass the overall story-coherency test, sooner or later, as much for con-apologists as for pro; because we _are_ talking about a complex, inter-related and protracted historical event of _some_ sort. Not about a hundred disparate events of some sort which don't really need to fit together with each other.

Now, maybe Keith has a large-scale story continuity he can supply, or maybe he doesn't; and if he doesn't, maybe he doesn't consider such things to be necessary. But the people with whom he is disputing _do_ consider such things to be important. And frankly, I would normally think that philosophical naturalists (specifically _as_ naturalists) would consider such things to be even more important _for their own historical theories_ than supernaturalists might for theirs.

I allow (and believe me when I say I sympathize, including as a believer!) that presenting such a large-scale coherency isn't easy to do on short notice. Frankly, it's even impossible. (I don't much like debating various piecemeal bits of metaphysical theology, either, for much the same reason, even when I recognize them to be important.) And I am entirely willing to allow plenty of that kind of slack to someone (such as Keith) presenting a point. I may pick at the slack somewhat, but on the whole I'm willing to respect it as part of the limitation to presenting a theory on what amounts to short notice (such as a letter to a web-journal.)

My chief problem isn't (a completely understandable and forgivable) slack in the presentation. My chief problem is that when I look at the presentation, I receive the impression that _there is no coherency being arrived (or maybe even aimed) at_. I receive few indications of a carefully thought-out counter-narrative, ranking at the same level as the pro-apologists; while, on the contrary, I find indications that different "stories" are being jumped among, which are incommensurate with each other.

Why, for instance, does Keith bring up the story of Joseph of Arimathea asking for the body of Jesus? It doesn't add anything to the point he's trying to make--if anything it mitigates against it. He mentions it as a sort of off-hand acknowledgment that the information is historical, apparently without considering its immediate implications for the point he's really trying to make (shortly: wouldn't the Romans think it's weird for the Sanhedrin to come asking them for the body?--in connection to which he mentions, in an off-handedly affirming way, that a member of the Sanhedrin _already had_ come to the Romans asking for the body back, which Pilate agreed to.) In Keith's favor, it looks a lot like he mentioned it simply because it _is_ a realistic bit of information, that in principle he has no problem accepting.

Until, that is, he has a problem accepting it. Aside from immediately undermining the very point he was trying to present for acceptance, it makes exactly zero sense to casually allow on one page that Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body and receieved it, and then on the next page to start complaining that the word 'tomb' isn't found in the (existant) Pauline epistles. What did he think a friendly member of the Sanhedrin would normally do with the body of a respected rabbi over a holiday weekend: toss it in a compost heap?--or put it out on a table in his house, perhaps?

The problem isn't so much a disjunction here and there in the data: we're talking about information gathered almost totally from ancient texts, some of which weren't even pretending to present a history anyway (i.e. the Pauline epistles are a different genre from historical narrative, even when he references bits of claimed history for his purposes now and then.) Disjunctions are to be expected, even if the documents are basically reliable. The problem is that Keith doesn't seem to be thinking out the implications of what he's saying, in relation to his _own_ contentions.

Again, I can go into tedious detail about this and that usage of language in the Pauline epistles; and I can go into a meticulous consideration of various options regarding the counter-polemic at the end of GosMatt. But even assuming I ignore all of that, and simply take the hypothesis that Paul is advocating a resurrection (with or without a new body) without needing the original body to be gone: where does taking this hypothesis lead us?

Somehow, the hypothesis has to be an integral part of a historical theory that leads us to four compositions (ones which won the authority competition, so to speak), at least three of which were apparently written for Gentile audiences--all four of which centrally feature _THE BODY BEING GONE_.

To say the least, is this not a little odd? If I was seriously sitting down to figure out a history of how we got to those documents, _I_ (at least) would have a pretty difficult time squaring the hypothesis (Paul didn't need that body itself to be resurrected, especially when talking to a congregation in a very Hellenized setting) with the actual historical (not hypothetical) result starting in the same cultural area no more than twenty years later (narratives of putative historicity are being written for, and popularly accepted by, Gentile audiences, centrally featuring the disappearance, and raising, of that body.) The result isn't only different, it's completely in an opposite direction of the hypothesis. The audience certainly doesn't need such a detail, per the hypothesis. In the case of Hellenized Gentiles, it might even run against their natural expectations.

When I hear con-apologist explanations offered about why a missing body would be important to invent for those stories, I find a completely different attempt at historical accounting, than the account which features Paul not needing that body to be raised but nevertheless chiding his Corinthian audience for not really needing a raised body (Christ's and their own) for their belief. (Itself a problem of no small importance.)

And _that's_ the kind of disjunction I was primarily talking about, in regard to Keith's letter. Maybe it's fixable, or maybe it isn't; but if it _can_ be fixed, it should.


Steven Carr said...

It seems Jason still cannot find one body that is the eubject of the abstract phrase 'sown a natural body, raised a spiritual body'

The nearest subject is 'the dead'.

Notice, not 'dead bodies'

If you want 'it' as a subject, it is an impersonal it - the sort of it we use to say 'It stopped raining and it started shining'.

We don't mean the rain was dissolved and then reformed as sunshine.

Should we respect Paul's writing where he does not have one body turning into another?

If we did that, where would Jason be?

If only Paul had said that dead bodies would be brought to life, Jason would not have to write such long, long posts trying to make Paul say what Jason means.

Jason Pratt said...

Part of the reason the posts are so long, Steven, is that there is a lot in that chapter (not even counting related ones in 1 Cor and elsewhere in the Pauline epistles) to be discussed. I specifically said I omitted more that I could have gone into. And I took you seriously enough to spend real time replying, that I could have easily spent doing something else (if all I was going to do was blow you off with a couple of loose gestures.)

It seems Jason still cannot find one body that is the subject of the abstract phrase 'sown a natural body, raised a spiritual body'

"Abstract phrase"? Did you not understand what I was talking about, when discussing how verbs are commonly used in 1st century street-Greek? Or are you simply choosing to ignore basic concepts of Greek grammar?

Speaking of notions I omitted, I also decided not to bring up the possibility that (due to fairly complex grammatic rules regarding the use of adjectives in relation to nouns and verbs in a Greek sentence) the relative positions of verb/noun/adjective may mean in itself the noun is supposed to be read as an object, not as the subject. While I suspect this is the case, and while it would easily cinch the grammatic argument if true, I didn't want to appeal to a position I wasn't entirely sure about yet. (I still may be wrong about that; haven't been able to confirm or deny it yet.)

In any case, what part of 'I would have no objection to "A soulish body is sown, a spiritual body is raised"' did you not understand? Did I not bend over backward to _grant_ you a possible translation, even though I was under no obligation to do so--one which provides you a use of the noun as the subject instead of as the object of the predicate?

(The first adjective, btw, is clearly 'soulish'; though I have no problem rendering it 'natural' in the sense of being 'naturally living': in Greek and Hebrew language both, however, there isn't always a clear distinction between them, so the usage should probably be more subtle than simply 'naturally living'. If you want to call it 'natural', that's fine--it's a normal translation. But please stop being hypocritical about the realities of translation between Greek and English.)

The preceding phrases (to which the 'abstract phrase' you keep focusing on is certainly supposed to be connected to in parallel) are _certainly_ not 'abstract phrases' (if by that you mean with no subject), even though no subject is written: the subject is implied as part of the verb form. And those are the _exact same verbs and forms_ used in the _sentence_ you're latching onto (and trying to deny there is any subject for, apparently).

Clearly you yourself have to understand and accept the principle that in Greek it is common (especially in cases of pronoun usage) for the subject to be built-into the form of the verb; because _you yourself supply the pronoun_ in a sentence _you_ quote which (as I specifically noted) has no literal subject-noun written out.

Either that, or your whole attempt is based on maintaining an ignorance about how Greek is written. (I say 'maintaining' because it was the very first thing I mentioned in my reply. Or did you only read your own quote and stop there?)

The nearest subject is 'the dead'.

Notice, not 'dead bodies'

If you want 'it' as a subject, it is an impersonal it - the sort of it we use to say 'It stopped raining and it started shining'.

Even setting aside the whole Greek-verbs-frequently-contain-their-subjects thing: do you seriously not understand that the "it" in the sentences you gave stands for an actual subject? Either 'the sky stopped raining and started shining', or 'the raining stopped and the shining started'.

And, by the way, "the dead" (if you're meaning v.42) is not a subject. It's the object of a preposition. (to_n nekro_n) The subject of that verse is either 'houto_s' or 'he_ anastasis'. More precisely, one is a subject, and one is predicate nominative; but since the verb is only implied, then their equivalency is highlighted: •this• is •the resurrection•--"of the dead". Technically 'anastasis' would be the predicate nominative, but it's being treated as equal to the technical subject.

You're welcome to try going back to 'resurrection' as the extended subject of "it is sown, it is raised" if you like--but you'll still be going against Greek grammar if you try.

Should we respect Paul's writing where he does not have one body turning into another?

Certainly; though so far you haven't actually succeeded in making use of any such place as that. Here, I myself will provide a place for you to latch onto in 1 Cor 15 itself: vv.39-41. Though I recommend reading them in context of the connecting verse 38. (Really, I'm more than a little amazed that _these_ aren't the verses you were putting your weight exclusively on from the beginning. Because it is abundantly clear that Paul is talking about the seed being transformed into a plant by being clothed in the plant-to-come. You've picked the weakest possible place for your contention instead.)

If only Paul had said that dead bodies would be brought to life, Jason would not have to write such long, long posts trying to make Paul say what Jason means.

If only Paul had actually said that the seed remains in the ground unchanged while a completely new plant is created somewhere else in no connection to the seed and its fate--instead of what Paul actually _does_ say (at length), making a far more natural use of the metaphor in trying to decribe what he means.

But--_you yourself_ have been agreeing that when Paul is talking about what is sown, he's talking about dead bodies. So, if Paul says that what is sown (the body) will not be coming to life unless it first dies (v.36a), and then goes on to metaphorically talk about the process...

But you want it stated straight out by Paul. Context of the whole chapter (at the large and small scale) isn't enough for you.

Okay; here it is on a plate--Paul says dead bodies will be brought to life.

Ro 8:11 "Now if the spirit of the One Who rouses Jesus from death is dwelling in you, the One Who rouses Christ Jesus from death will also be vivifying [bringing to life] your dying bodies because His spirit is dwelling in you."

You're going to have a _really_ hard time trying to cogently parse out the 'dying bodies' being brought to life here, as meaning anything other than the bodies which (sooner or later) are going to be sown. Especially in relation to the rousing of Jesus from death. (You're welcome to try explaining this as being a quote Paul is making from an opponent of his in the Roman church, that Paul has been opposing before this point and instantly begins opposing again after this point. But I think you're going to have a really hard time trying to make _that_ case as well. {g})

That adjective ("dying") is in a grammatic position of being used as a noun in 1 Cor 15:53b (which I've also already mentioned): "and this mortal [dying-one] shall be putting on immortality [athanasia, un-deathing]". Granted, this promise in 1 Cor is being made to people who won't be being 'put to repose'; but Paul explicitly introduces this section on the ground that some people will be going through the same change he has been decribing, _without_ being put to rest/being sown: without their body being buried, in other words.

The reason all this has to be gone into minute detail, is because _you_ refuse to read the meaning that's actually there: as your earlier attempt at trying to draw a parallel between metaphors of sown seed and wheat-and-chaff amply illustrates (and you couldn't even get the wheat-and-chaff metaphor correct! Care to try defending _that_ attempt again? Or will you honorably concede on _that_ point at least?)


Jason Pratt said...

Bit of an editing blip, in the main letter:

"Besides, *I'm* isn't like I'm desperate to save my position. {g}"

Should be "it", of course. (Comes from having rewritten the sentence.)