Tuesday, May 24, 2011

contrasts (or, not ridiculicity)

In contrast to that other article I was reading, Samuel Byrskog's 2003 review of Rudolf Bultmann's classic, Die Geschichte der synoptischen Tradition [1921; ET: History of the Synoptic Tradition (1963)] strikes me as both fair and appropriate. I have my own disagreements with Byrskog's approach to memory and oral tradition, but his evaluation of Bultmann's work and its legacy seems pretty cogent to me. So I appreciate the force with which Byrskog gives the following blunt assessment:
The fundamental problem with Bultmann's method is not its inherent skepticism toward the historicity of the tradition. Occasionally he grants a good deal of continuity to the tradition; and skepticism is indeed part of all critical investigations. Rather, what is essentially problematic is precisely that his method does not work as a tool of historical inquiry. (Byrskog, "review of The History of the Synoptic Tradition" [JBL 122/3 (2003)], 554; emphasis added)

Byrskog goes on to demonstrate the unworkability of Bultmann's method; this is not simply dismissive invective. And so the blunt assessment is not only warranted but also welcome.

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