Friday, July 4, 2008

Josephus and Pedagogy

In a May 12 post on "Piper and Pedagogy" I said that "A true education will encourage in students the ability to think for themselves so that they can continue to be nurtured by their own ongoing study of Scripture." Shortly afterward I ran across John Barclay's Brill Translation and Commentary discussion of a passage in Josephus which made me wonder whether my take on what a "true education" entails is more Greek than Biblical.

The passage in question is from Josephus's discussion of divine inspiration in Contra Apionem 1.37-38:
Naturally, then, or rather necessarily – seeing that it is not open to anyone to write of their own accord, nor is there any disagreement present in what is written, but the prophets alone learned, by inspiration from God, what had happened in the distant and most ancient past and recorded plainly events in their own time just as they occurred among us there are not thousands of books in disagreement and conflict with each other, but only twenty-two books, containing the record of all time, which are rightly trusted.
And here is Barclay's comment:
This association of Judean historiography with prophets . . . is without parallel in Greek or Roman culture . . . . Similarly striking is the sense that those responsible for writing history learned it from God. “Learning” . . . suggests a passive subordination quite contrary to the Greek . . . spirit of enquiry, which involved the critical testing of sources . . . As “prophets,” these Judean historians would be recipients of divine inspiration . . . since the prophet was mastered and possessed by the divine Spirit (Ant. 4.118-19). Josephus elsewhere speaks of Moses “learning” the Judean code of laws “from God” . . . and it is this conviction that undergirds Judean commitment to the “decrees of God” (1.42). The Judean attitude to their scriptures thus matches this ethos of deference implied in the “learning” of their contents.

(John Barclay, note 152 in Against Apion 1.37. Both translation and commentary are available online here at the Project for Ancient Cultural Engagement [or PACE] website.)
For a study of Paul's epistemology that argues for a more reasoned approach to knowing, see my friend Ian W. Scott's monograph, Implicit Epistemology in the Letter's of Paul (WUNT 2.205; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2006). Ian describes his argument as follows:

In this book I explore Paul's assumptions about how human beings could come to knowledge about God and our relationship with him. The Apostle is surprisingly optimistic, I argue, about the power of human reason to attain such knowledge, once the moral will has been restored by God's Spirit. We do not come to knowledge, however, by building brick by brick upon unquestionable premises. Rather, Paul's theological knowledge is structured as a story, and ethical knowledge is a matter of discerning how to play a good role in that cosmic narrative. All of this suggests a model of theological knowing in which change and development can grow naturally out of our authoritative tradition.

2 comments:

Isaac said...

Hauerwas has two articles in his "Christian Existence Today" that broadly engage pedagogy. Your comment wondering if your approach was "more Greek than Biblical" made me think of a passage entitled "The Problem of the Socratic Ideal for the University." Obviously he's speaking more often than not about his own position, but he talks about the Christian college as well. Typical Hauerwas' polemics included of course.
I couldn't remember where I heard it, but he also said that he opened a class of his saying something along the lines of, "I don't intend to teach you to think for yourself. I intend to teach you to think like myself."
For what it's worth.

d. miller said...

Excellent. I'll have to check it out.