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From: "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" <ddanehy@siebel.com>
Subject: RE: (whorl) Fallible Narrators and Even More Fallible Copyists:
Date: Mon, 11 Jun 2001 09:42:24 

Rostrum, again:

> One of my favorite parallels:  Luke and Acts are thought to
> have been written by the same person (arguably, "Luke").  

Well, either him or another Hellenized Hebrew of the same name ;*)

> Luke is all third person, and Acts is almost entirely third
> person until about 2/3 of the way through (in the fourth
> part if you divided the two books into four parts) the
> narrator suddenly says, "and then we got ready to leave for
> Macedonia" (Acts 16:10).

Luke/Acts is a special problem, imo, in this particular flavor
of Scripture scholarship. While the other three Gospels try to
give the character of an eyewitness narrative (and "John," in 
my opinion, actually possesses that character & may well have 
actually been written or dictated in its earliest form by the
John who followed Jesus around), Luke makes no such pretense.
Those first four verses I mentioned have a queerly _modernist_
historiographical sense: they are the preface of a historian
saying, in effect, "I've done my homework, I've researched,
I've gone to original sources and interviewed the remaining
witnesses," that sort of thing. This is weird because that sort
of historiographical concern doesn't really become common until
the Enlightenment or thereabouts; is Luke being defensive, or
is he just out of his time, or what? At any rate, it gives me
a kind of confidence in the historical facticity of Luke's 
account that I don't really have for Mt and Mk.

All of which I mention because the first draft of the note I
sent off yesterday under this title went into great detail
about that subject; it was in fact the launching place for
my thesis that Wolfe is recreating the experience of 
encountering the Gospels, albeit in a fictive context.

May I analogize? _One_ of C.S. Lewis' motivations for writing
the "Narnia" books the way he did, was to present some of the 
ideas of Christianity in a "safe" context -- that is, in a
cognitive environment freed of affective authority, with nobody
telling you how you "ought" to feel about Jesus and God and
all that. By allowing children to respond to these ideas and
events in such an environment, Lewis reasoned, he could perform
a sort of guerilla evangelism; the responses, once present in
the children, might freely associate themselves with their 
proper objects when those objects were re-cognized.

Now, Wolfe is not writing children's books, but I think it 
possible and even likely that he is doing something analogous
-- presenting to us, in a fictive and cognitively "safe" 
context, the problem of teasing out the historical facticity
that lies behind the Gospels. 

Given the way the Gospels      | Given the way the Books of Silk
were written,                  | and Horn appear to have been written, 
and the way they have come     | and and the way they appear to have 
down to us, can we believe     | come down to us, can we believe
that we know anything about    | that we know anything about what
what really happened in        | "really" happened in the fictive
Jerusalem ca. 4BC-33AD?        | lives of Silk and Horn?


I wrote: 
>> ... to deny Silk's enlightenment is to make the whole LONG
>> SUN (and, by transference, SHORT) fall apart, meaningless
>> and incoherent. 

Rostrum responds:
> I strongly disagree.  Horn believes that Silk was
> enlightened, and perhaps Silk believed it.  But I don't think
> Silk's story is completely incoherent or unexplainable without
> it.  

H'mmmm.  But then, I think the Gospels are incoherent unless you
assume that Jesus was divine. I'm not just talking about the
infamous "madman, devil, God" trichotomy (which, btw, I think 
has more force than most people credit); I'm saying that given
the different apparent provenances of the four accounts, and 
especially the radically different provenance and character of 
John's from the others, I find it extremely unlikely that any
coherent explanation of these texts can be produced that does
not involve at least some of the miracles, the Last Supper,
and the Resurrection actually occurring. I find it equally 
unlikely, given the nature of the movement, that there are no 
contemporary accounts of anyone saying "I was there and it 
didn't happen that way at all" -- the closest things being 
Josephus, who skirts the issue entirely, and some of the 
earliest "apocryphal" Gospels, which vary in detail but which
actually do support the general outline -- unless there was
nobody to say it. (One can conceive of a vast clerical
conspiracy to suppress and destroy all such documents, of 
course, but I'm extremely skeptical of conspiracy theories.)

The point of which is not to try to convert anyone out there,
but to give some sense of what kind of response I think the
Gospels, and analogously the Books of Silk and Horn, demand.

> People point to Silk having received otherwise unavailable
> knowledge from his enligtenment, but its nothing Horn would
> not have known at the time he wrote the story.  It's not like
> Horn even uses this as "proof" that Silk was enlightened...

... which is another example of the BoS having something of
the character of the Gospels. While the evangelists do in fact
go out of their way at times to show how Jesus' actions fulfilled
this or that prophecy, they don't seem particularly concerned to
"prove" that Jesus was the Son of God; they just tell you so and
you take it or leave it.

> Did Jesus really predict the fall of Jerusalem, or is that
> something the gospel writers added in later?  

That is, of course, precisely the kind of question that the
three-layered model I described makes almost unaskable. Given 
the nature of Scripture in this understanding -- the written 
preservation of a community's response to its encounter with 
the Divine -- the question actually becomes meaningless. 
Given the model of "inspiration" used in the same school of 
Scripture study, it simply does not matter whether or not 
Jesus "actually" said a given thing (that is, whether the
statement "Jesus said X" has historical facticity); what 
matters is that His having said it is preserved for our 
edification (lit. "building up"). It is perfectly consonant
with this model of truth to believe that, on a certain occasion,
Jesus said something -- X -- which was ideally suited to the
needs of His audience, while the evangelist, years later, 
wrote down a somewhat different statement, Y, which marks
not only the evangelist's imperfect memory, but the movement
of the Holy Spirit in the evangelist to set down the statement
which would most generally benefit two thousand years and more
of believers and potential believers.

So to ask "Did Jesus really say X"? becomes something rather 
other than moot -- it becomes an almost Clintonesque inquiry 
into "well, that depends on what 'really' means."

And, yes, I do think we are operating at that level of 
uncertainty in dealing with the LONG/SHORT SUN texts; and,
no, I am _not_ completely comfortable with that. And so I
return to my response to your statement that "[t]here is a 
sense in which telling a story from a third-person, 
omniscient viewpoint is cheating." At another level, I want
so say that there is a very real sense in which _not_ telling
a story from that kind of viewpoint is cheating: it is 
cheating the reader of a coherent narrative. If I want
uncertainty, I'll read fact; when I read fiction, it is 
usually because I want the pleasure of a coherent narrative.

"Truth is stranger than fiction," said Mark Twain, "because
fiction is obliged to make sense." Wolfe is pushing the limit
of that obligation, very hard, and I'm not at all certain
that he hasn't violated it in SHORT SUN.

> > Again: "We never know the world that way."
> > 
> > No, we don't. But somehow we _conceive_ the world that way. We have
> > a sense that there is a single, coherent reality, even if our own
> > limited knowledge can never get at it. 

> This is a good point.  We're always telling ourselves 3rd-person
> omniscient stories about the world.  Is that a mistake?  I don't know.

If it is a mistake, it is an unavoidable mistake. We are narrative


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