I have posted previously about my concern over the astronomical leaps some scholars make in identifying the Sitz im Leben behind a given confessional community in the first two Christian centuries. It seems to me that many scholars reject a great deal in a given text but then go on to create fantastic theories of events behind the text and then present those theories with utter assurance of their results. This morning I came across this pertinent quote from Halvor Moxnes on the Gospel of Luke:
How can we move from the text of Luke’s Gospel to the social situation of his first readers? This problem in Gospel research has not yet been solved. . . .The Lukan text creates a narrative world, and it is this world we examine as we analyze the social relations, ethos, and symbolic universe of Luke. Still, this does not mean that we now have a ‘window’ that opens onto the social situation of Luke’s historical community” (The Social Context of Luke’s Community,” Interpretation 49 : 379).
One would think that such a straightforward concept would be self-evident, but it is not. And, what Moxnes says is not just true of Lukan studies. Those working in Synoptic, Johannine, and Thomasine studies could benefit from such a measured agnosticism about their community-related conclusions.