FIND in
<--prev V12 next-->

From: Adam Stephanides <adamsteph@earthlink.net>
Subject: Re: (whorl) Fallible Narrators and Even More Fallible Copyists: a
Date: Wed, 13 Jun 2001 20:16:12 

on 6/11/01 7:14 PM, Dan'l Danehy-Oakes at ddanehy@siebel.com wrote:

> Oddly enough, I wasn't thinking of this project as apologetic.
> Rather, I was thinking of it as experiential -- taking the
> experience of having this manuscript, with a certain kind of
> provenance, and just knowing that, however it may vary from the
> historical _fact_, it is in essence _true_.

And, clarifying his position later, he wrote:

> The issue here is _not_ how a
> hypothetical Bluish reader might respond when faced with
> the Books of Silk and Horn; the issue is how _we_ respond
> when faced with the Books of the Suns of Various Lengths --
> My point (All together now... "and I do have one") is that
> the position into which Wolfe places _us_, vis-a-vis the
> events which hypothetically underlie the LONG/SUN books,
> is homologous to the position in which an engaged and
> thoughtful reader, even a skeptical one, finds herself
> when vis-a-vis the events which hypothetically underlie
> the Gospels -- "Layer 1 of Gospel formation," to use the
> RCC terminology: the actual events, _whatever they were_,
> that occurred in Judaea and the surrounding area ca.
> 4BC-33AD. (That "fairly unthoughtful" reader, in fact,
> would be in a position homologous to that of of a "every
> word of Scripture is literally factual" fundamentalist.)

I don't agree.  We "believe" in the accuracy of Horn's account because, as
you wrote in an earlier post, it is a literary convention to accept a
narrator as truthful and correct unless there is evidence that he/she is
lying or misled.  And we "believe" in Silk's enlightenment because it makes
for a better and more coherent book, in an aesthetic sense (this is not at
all the same thing as your argument that the coherence of four separate
accounts indicates the historicity of the Gospels).  I doubt that either of
these is the reason why a believer accepts the truth of the Gospels.  And
they have nothing to do with my response as an unbeliever to the Gospels.
If the "Book of Silk" had somehow actually come to us from the future, but
with no further indications as to its provenance, we would have no reason to
accept Horn's narrative as true in essence, or Silk as enlightened.  If
anything, the sophistication with which the book was shaped would tell
against taking giving credence to the narrative.

> I agree that it has wider applicability than the Gospels; I suspect
> that this experience has two general applications:
> 1. A general approach to our reaction to ancient manuscripts -- to
> our only real source of knowledge of the history of the world
> before the modernist project of factual accuracy.

I would hope that historians do not approach ancient manuscripts generally
with the same assumptions that we approach the "Book of Silk" or believers
approach the Gospels.  And it's my impression that the better ones don't.
(And there are other sources of knowledge on the ancient world besides
manuscripts--archaeology and inscriptions.)

> Right. The only problem is that there doesn't seem to be any
> evidence, outside the one Gospel, that such a story ever
> circulated. Again: where are the contemporary challenges? For
> them all to disappear seems to imply their deliberate suppression,
> which in turn demands the conspiracy-theory of church formation;
> but that again seems to founder on the inconsistencies of the
> texts.

I could say some things in response to this, but I don't think anybody wants
a thread going that far afield.  I'll just say (since it doesn't directly
question anyone's religious belief) that contrary to what you imply above,
there was indeed "deliberate suppression" of works regarded as heretical and
anti-Christian (see Ramsay MacMullen, _Christianity and Paganism in the
Fourth to Eighth Centuries_).  And, apart from deliberate destruction, the
survival of ancient manuscripts was dependent (except for chance
archaeological discoveries) largely upon copying by Christian monks and
scribes, who would certainly not have copied anything challenging the truth
of the Gospels.  Several ancient anti-Christian treatises are known only
from quotations or discussions by Christian writers who were refuting them;
and until the Nag Hammadi discoveries, the same was largely true of our
knowledge of Gnosticism.


*This is WHORL, for discussion of Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun.
*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.moonmilk.com/whorl/
*To leave the list, send "unsubscribe" to whorl-request@lists.best.com
*If it's Wolfe but not Long Sun, please use the URTH list: urth@lists.best.com

<--prev V12 next-->