Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Eyewitness Testimony

I'm reading through Bauckham's book, and in a subsection titled Eyewitness Testimony, he says some things which I found helpful. I'm somewhat puzzled that critical scholars tend to pit the Synoptic Gospels against the Gospel of John in terms of history and theology and regarding this issue, Bauckham briefly comments:

"The vital importance that was attached, in Greco-Roman historiography, to the firsthand testimony of eyewitness participants in the events, and the way in which the Gospels reflect this concern, has been highlighted recently in Samuel Byrskog's Story as History—History as Story, and I have discussed the Gospels in this light at length in my book, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. So a brief treatment will suffice here. The historiographical ideal, which meant that strictly speaking one could write only contemporary history, history that was still within living memory, was that the historian himself should have been a participant in many of the events and that he should have interviewed eyewitnesses of those events he could not himself have witnessed. Dionysius of Halicarnassus, for example, praises the historical work of Theopompus of Chios because "he was an eyewitness (αὐτόπτης) of many events, and conversed with many of the eminent men and generals of his day" (Pomp. 6). In a literary context of this kind John's Gospel would seem readily to meet the contemporary requirements of reliable historiography, probably better than the Synoptic Gospels. Its claim, whether authentic or not, is to authorship by a disciple of Jesus who notes his own presence (in the third person as was the normal historiographical convention) at key events in the story he tells, and makes it plain that he belonged to a circle of other disciples from whom he could be reliably informed of other events. Widespread failure to recognize that this Gospel's claim to eyewitness testimony is at least a straightforward historiographical one (doubtless it has also a theological dimension) has resulted from the influence of the dictum that this Gospel is theology, not history, and consequent isolation of it from its literary context in ancient historiography."

1 comment:

crazysush said...

I like the blend of both. Then again, what do I know.