Friday, November 20, 2009

Five Things I Want to See in Earl Doherty's New Book. (pt II)

We continue our series with the second on the list of five things I'd like to see (but probably won't, since I'm increasingly disinclined to read the book. . .it might be more apt to call this 5 caveats around Doherty's argument and argumentation)

Less reliance on Authority

The best known example of this tendency is probably Doherty's suggested translation of kata sarka and en sarki. Distressingly little is offered in the way of genuine argument in favour of the translation, simply that it could be "useful" and that C K Barrett "suggested" it. In Doherty's defense, he's expanded on this a bit since then, both in discussions online and on his website, but in his book the absence of elaboration is disappointing.

Most of the discussion online has centered around whether or not Earl has quote mined here (he has), but even if we allow that Earl is using Barrett fairly, if I say "Then Barrett's wrong too," then what? Barrett doesn't argue for Doherty, that much everyone agrees on, and Doherty doesn't offer much in the way of argument for himself, other than the distinct possibility that it's a distinct possibility. How do we know that? Barrett says so!

I can't help but think a coherent argument could be pieced together (Clement in particular offers a nice passage that could be used), and while I'm not sure if it could be convincing or not, it's a sight better than what's offered now, which is marginally more than nothing.

If we suggest that kai be rendered "and," we're on pretty firm ground, and could casually point to any one of a hundred sources and call it good. But when we suggest "according to the flesh" represents an Aristotlean sphere, we should probably back that up. Extensively.

Another example can be found in Doherty's response to my argument on 2 Peter mentioned below. Rather than address the argument that the transfiguration represents Markan invention, Doherty casually points to Koester, and suggests that since "even Koester" thinks it is independent, this is sufficient. It isn't. Koester doesn't address the arguments I raised (or if he does, he doesn't in the cite Earl provided), and consequently, from my position, that just means he's wrong too.

He seems to approach some subjects with the misguided notion that it's enough to cite sources with conclusions he needs, without engaging the arguments for or against his position. The end result is a piece that is applauded by those already sympathetic, but does nothing to convince those opposed.


Qohelet said...

I never did finish his book TJP. Now I'm disinclined to do so. BTW, welcome back to blogdom. :)

Rick Sumner said...

Thanks for the welcome.

I don't want to say that there's nothing offered in TJP, because there is. He at least makes the effort to engage the subject seriously, rather than just screaming about the crusade of the Ivory Tower or other such rubbish. He raises eyebrows, he just doesn't, IMO, make his case.