2010-04-29

Biblical historians make detectives look silly

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by Neil Godfrey

Inspector Gadget
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Biblical historians who “research” the historical Jesus and the foundations of Christianity in the Gospels have sometimes compared their “historical research” work with that of detectives or criminal investigators. Crime investigators are often targets of spoof, but this is going too far.

All detectives start with some known facts that are indisputable. A cadaver with a knife in its back, a diary of a missing heiress, invoices and tax records. They then seek to uncover more evidence from these established facts. Interviews are recorded and attempts are made to independently corroborate them, etc.

But if detectives work like historical Jesus scholars they would not work like this at all. They would read a few popular anonymous publications about a long-ago murder at a nearby uninhabited hill that locals believed to be haunted. They would dismiss most of the anecdotes about hauntings, but they would study the publications to try to determine who the murder victim was and what was the motive for his murder.

And this is how it would all pan out:

Identifying the victim

One detective who had a soft spot for offering charity to the down and out concluded that the murdered victim was a tramp, another who had run for local elections concluded that the victim was respectable member of the local town council.

Discovering the habits of the victim

Some would decide that he spoke in riddles and was regarded as an eccentric, others that he was a highly respected local advocate. Many would say he went to the hill often, every weekend. Others would say he only went there once, and that was when he met his fate.

Establishing motive for the murder

As for the motive for his murder, and the identity of the culprit, this also led to a wide smorgasbord of opinion. Arguments that he was the victim of mistaken identity, or the victim of a jealous lover, were both on the table, and members of the public took sides as to which one they preferred.

Finding the culprit

Most seem to accept the face-value claim in the anonymous publications that the unfortunate victim was done in by a corrupt police officer. Some added that the local priest was also somehow implicated, and a few even laid blame on a lynch mob.

Putting it all together

All of these views — all “researched” from the contents of the anonymous publications against what the detectives knew of the local township — were taken on board and debated by different townspeople.

A few sceptics even doubted there ever was a murder at all. They believed other more coherent and evidential reasons could account for the anonymous narratives.

At the end of the day

One day, some of the detectives said they could never really find out who the murdered victim really was.

Others were less pessimistic and said that they probably had discovered the real victim, and even motive for his murder. It was just that they had no way of deciding which of their many “researched” findings was the correct one.

I like a good joke against the police as much as anyone. But this is just being ridiculous.

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71 Comments

  • 2010-04-30 07:50:37 UTC - 07:50 | Permalink

    that’s funny. which scholars have compared their work to detectives? No sources. I don’t know any.

    • 2010-04-30 10:33:48 UTC - 10:33 | Permalink

      Oh, I dunno. You might like to do a search for words like “criminal” and “court” and “detective” in this amazon book for a start. But I don’t want to make it look I’m overly picking on any one scholar in particular. I’ve already done that too much in one particular case and don’t want to repeat it here.

      The analogy runs through many books on historical Jesus reconstructions. The amazon one I link above contains an extensive discussion for lay readers on how biblical historians in general work.

      For another example from a prominent biblical scholar’s use of the analogy check out on amazon the word “courtroom” in the same book I quoted from in the post previous to this one in which I discuss some scholar redefining history.

      (Bauckham also discusses the courtroom testing of evidence/testimony at great length, but his effort is to justify a biblical exceptionalism from history as viewed by Collingwood. I have been focusing on biblical historians that might more readily compare themselves with Elton’s views for reasons I have explained in an ealier post.)

      Now, regardless of sources (let’s pretend I made up the analogy all on my own-some), would you like to dispute that the analogy does apply to biblical scholars? I was originally toying with extending the analogy to a Monty Python courtroom scene too, to cover that related analogy used by biblical scholars themselves, but decided that would be overkill. Or considered contempt of court.

      But forget analogies. How about addressing the way biblical scholars are unlike all other historians in that they begin with no basic facts at all. Is your disagreement with the analogy, the source of the analogy, or the point being addressed through the analogy?

  • 2010-04-30 10:44:06 UTC - 10:44 | Permalink

    haha I didn’t bother reading the post because it’s irrelevant to historical Jesus scholarship. You couldn’t give sources and I certainly haven’t come across any.

    • 2010-04-30 10:55:00 UTC - 10:55 | Permalink

      Amazing. You are able say all that about the contents of my post without reading it? But I’ll forgive you and give you another chance to revise your views if you do read it.

  • 2010-04-30 11:06:46 UTC - 11:06 | Permalink

    why should I? You can’t quote a source. If scholars actually used that analogy I’d read your post maybe to see what you say. But as far as I know, they don’t.

    • 2010-04-30 11:13:46 UTC - 11:13 | Permalink

      Steph, I linked to two sources that contain full citations and even provided keywords for you to search those sources online to verify my point. (This apart from the fact that you appear to be pettifogging to avoid the point of the analogy that really does, I suggest, highlight the nonsense at the heart of HJ “scholarship”.) You are being a bit silly here.

  • 2010-04-30 11:13:53 UTC - 11:13 | Permalink

    oh I see the links in your comments. The first one I don’t count for much nor the second either but give me a page reference or two and I’ll check out Crossan. Crossan is about the most regrettable there is don’t you think. He’s easy to pick to pieces, from his ‘methodology’ to the ‘Cross Gospel’ and ‘Q’ and goodness the Gospel of Thomas, oh dear. He’s even got literacy wrong – but then so have most of the rest.

    • 2010-04-30 11:22:15 UTC - 11:22 | Permalink

      Can you address the point of the analogy? Pretend I made it up all by myself and no HJ scholar admits to it all. It nonetheless describes how not only Crossan but Casey/Crossley also (and most other HJ scholars, Brits and Americans) do HJ history.

  • 2010-04-30 11:33:32 UTC - 11:33 | Permalink

    Nope. Can’t see the point of the analogy. As you say, it’s ‘ridiculous’. You’ve missed the point altogether. And Crossley? Come on – he does not approach history that way.

  • 2010-04-30 13:15:49 UTC - 13:15 | Permalink

    actually thinking about it, some scholarship has used analogies of courtroom scenes for the passion narrative – Nickelsburg for example and Crossan cites him. So unless you can provide references of scholars describing their own work as ‘detectives’ I don’t believe you. ‘Runs through many books’ – really?

    • 2010-04-30 14:08:04 UTC - 14:08 | Permalink

      You’re misreading what I wrote and missing the entire point of my posts if you are focusing on which historians explicitly draw the analogy to their work. And the analogies of these apply to nearly all HJ historians (that is the point of their analogies — to compare their work as scholars, not individuals, to this process). They just about all work the same way and a few whom I have cited have compared that way to courtroom and/or detective work. (I’ve linked to two, cited another, and McDuff has given one more.) HJ methodology as practiced by most HJ scholars has no justifiable methodology in terms of history as practiced by just about any other history discipline.

      So Yes. Quite really. HJ historians do not start with any indisputable facts, such as the battle of Hastings in 1066.

      They start with a single set of anonymous narratives that have no external evidence corroborating the historical core of their narrative (I mean narrative characters and acts, not just background setting)and from that single set of narratives they attempt to decide what is core set of “historical facts”. Naturally the facts so “discovered” are always going to be disputable.

      Just like in the analogy of the silly detectives who work without any external controls that would give them some genuine starting point for a real investigation.

      Real historians (e.g. E.H. Carr, G.R. Elton, Eric Hobsbawm and others I’ve already discussed) always start with indisputable facts (e.g. the primary evidence for the existence of the Caesars), and from that base they can justify sifting both that primary and additional secondary evidence to answer historical questions.

      Crossley has said he is interested in explaining why and how Christianity began. But he has no facts to begin with. He only has a set of narratives that say all sorts of strange and bizarre things. But no matter, our cultural heritage has entitled us to believe absolutely that these narratives are about some real history in there somewhere. We have no other reason than cultural assumption for this belief.

      So we have no facts to begin with. Crossley, like any other HJ historian, has to find ways to “discover” some facts before he can start, so he applies various arguments to conclude that Jesus said or did this and that from those narratives. Just like those silly detectives.

  • Steven Carr
    2010-04-30 13:20:44 UTC - 13:20 | Permalink

    We don’t know how Crossley does history.

    Take disputes over food laws for example.

    How does Crossley work out the historical truth of Jesus allegedly saying ‘Eat what is set before you’ or ‘Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you…’?

  • mcduff
    2010-04-30 13:56:38 UTC - 13:56 | Permalink

    http://www.amazon.com/Case-Christ-Journalists-Personal-Investigation/dp/0310209307/ref=cm_cr_pr_pb_i#reader_0310209307

    Check out page 19, and other, [via search facility, but I can’t reproduce it here] of Lee Strobel’s “Case for Christ”.

  • Anonymous
    2010-04-30 14:27:18 UTC - 14:27 | Permalink

    Reminds me,(in an inverted way), of atheist turned apologist-author Lee Strobel. He begins his book, The Case for Christ, decribing his days as legal editor of the Chicago Tribune and a murder case he covered. He then explains how his training in journalism and law helped him investigate the validity of Christianity, leading to his conversion.
    His books have an investigative journalist’s approach to the truth of Christianity.
    I know he’s not a biblical historian or scholar but his books sell very well.

  • Rick H
    2010-04-30 14:31:03 UTC - 14:31 | Permalink

    I didn’t mean to post the above comment anonymously.

    And mcduff beat me to it!.

  • 2010-04-30 14:48:09 UTC - 14:48 | Permalink

    There’s nothing very much wrong with the detective analogy if applied to real historians. Both start with public facts that are indisputable. Questions arise from those facts and the enquiry begins. More private or hitherto hidden facts emerge — though these will nearly always be subject to some revision over time and as the enquiry progresses. (Steph’s offence at the analogy is misguided.)

    But to start with no facts at all is a methodology of faith. Quite appropriate, in this case, I suppose.

    The results of detectives/HJ historians having to create their own basic foundational facts before they can have something to enquire about is that each historian finds a Jesus in his own image.

    It will all be the topic of a great comedy one day.

  • 2010-04-30 19:35:57 UTC - 19:35 | Permalink

    that’s not my point. The analogy is ridiculous. And as usual you don’t cite sources when you make general claims. I checked out Crossan this morning and yes ‘courtroom’ appears in reference to Nickelsburg. If you google Jesus scholarship for ‘courtroom’ when the passion narrative has a trial, I dare say lots of books will come up. But quite frankly, “Biblical historians who “research” the historical Jesus and the foundations of Christianity in the Gospels have sometimes compared their “historical research” work with that of detectives or criminal investigators.” – your claim is false. And you talk about credibility.

    • 2010-04-30 22:01:10 UTC - 22:01 | Permalink

      I cited 3 sources and directly linked to two. If the analogy is false (regardless of who originated it) tell me how. It is not false, and that is the point.

  • 2010-05-01 00:06:17 UTC - 00:06 | Permalink

    can’t check mcgrath haven’t got it – he deals with the burial so maybe he deals with the ‘trial’ as well and talks about a ‘courtroom’ model. crossan discusses nickelsburg who invented the drama narrative model for the passion narrative which includes the ‘courtroom’. Crossan doesn’t refer to his work as that of a detective and neither did nickelsburg. I know the ‘trial’ turns up in all histories of jesus and the ‘courtroom’ model for the trial especially by those who dispute historicity of that tradition, has been used before.

  • 2010-05-01 03:36:43 UTC - 03:36 | Permalink

    First of all you give not precise references at all. You have alluded to three authors with no precise references. Secondly, arguments by analogy are never sufficient. Thirdly, your comments on detectives are fictional. You end ‘I like a good joke against the police as much as anyone. But this is just being ridiculous.’ It is, and you made it all up. Fourthly, your comments on Casey and Crossley have all been made up by you too. He says that ‘HJ historians do not start with any indisputable facts, such as the battle of Hastings in 1066.’ But historians seeking to establish any such things begin with the available primary sources. The main point is that good historians start with the primary sources, whereas mythicists, like Holocaust deniers, seek to discount them, as do postmodernists of various kinds. Of course, American fundamentalists are equally motivated by faith and bias, but that does not apply to apply to all Jesus scholars who work on the basis of the primary sources, of which the most direct and important are the synoptic Gospels, which you hold in contempt. The only reason why the existence of Jesus is not indisputable is the outpourings of mythicists, reacting against Christian tradition, which did not produce e.g. the deity of Jesus until long after he was dead, the canon of the New Testament until much longer after he was dead, the doctrine of the Trinity until the Fourth Century CE, and the inerrancy of scripture in the evangelical sense until centuries later.

    Fifthly, Casey and Crossley do use readily verifiable facts of Jewish and secular history whenever they are available, such as that Pontius Pilate was praefectus of Judaea 18-37 CE, crucifixion was a Roman penalty which Pilate might well inflict if he thought Jesus was a bandit, purity Law was very important to lots of Jews at the time, and houses in Capernaum were built in such a way that you could dig through the roof (Mark 2.4), which would not have tiles (as per Luke 5.19). Sixthly, no mythicist has yet explained what the features of Judaism taken for granted in our earliest primary source (e.g. Mark 1.34), and the mistakes in our earliest Gospel which can be explained from Mark’s Aramaic sources (e.g. in Mark 2.23-3.6) are doing there.

    Finally I was mistaken – I do have McGrath’s book – I just hadn’t read it through. So … it’s very short and doesn’t take long and, he does have a rather regrettable analogy (what a shame you haven’t provided the reference!!!) on pp.22 and 95 to prosecuting attorney and criminal investigations respectively but they are not very important to his book. They in no way justify your creative fiction, lack of precise referencing (only McGrath have I found and he doesn’t even apply it in his work and it doesn’t resemble your fiction), nor your comments on Casey and Crossley.

    • 2010-05-23 21:07:24 UTC - 21:07 | Permalink

      Okay, Steph says she is doing an Antonio and won’t post anymore on this blog. But can anyone tell me what might be Steph’s “verifiable facts” that establish Pilate as prefect (or praefectus if you are very particular about transliterations) 18-37 CE. I suspect this is simply a typo — unless Steph did an internet search and found the date associated with Pilate in her search-engine hits-summary — only by expanding this hit result does one see that the 18-37 date is for the high priest, not Pilate. But in drafting a quick comments response it is understandable that one not bother to explore such time-consuming detail. An easy enough error to make.

      • steph
        2010-05-24 02:25:32 UTC - 02:25 | Permalink

        You have maliciously misrepresented me again. I did not get the date of Pilate’s return from misreading the internet, a hopelessly unacademic approach to research, but from working on Josephus and relevant secondary literature. According to Josephus, Vitellius ordered Pilate to go to Rome to respond to accusations by the Samaritans, but Tiberius died before Pilate got there (Ant. XVIII, 89). The date of Tiberius’ death is known to have been 16th March, 37 CE. It is therefore most unlikely that Pilate left before 37, and technically only the emperor could dismiss him, which is why Josephus calls Marcellus, Vitellius’ friend whom he put in charge while there was no official praefectus present, simply epimelētēs. This is why I follow modern scholars such as Helen Bond in dating the end of Pilate’s tenure in 37 rather than 36. Anyone who is so amateur as to rely on internet articles would of course get the date of 36, which you give, but which should now be going out of date for the reasons which I have given. Finally, this point is simple enough for me to explain in a single paragraph, unlike most of your demands for arguments to some of which I have responded, sometimes with references to secondary literature which gives the longer necessary arguments. That is not because I have “confessed to being unable to write an abstract or summary” either.

        • 2010-05-24 09:33:11 UTC - 09:33 | Permalink

          Perhaps you will be kind enough to read my post and where I said I suspected a typo on your part — unless you did an internet search. Thank you for clarifying the 36/37 difference, but that is not what someone was enquirying about and on whose behalf I was making the query. Where did you get the 18 as the start year from.

          (Now I do see 18-37 for another name that appears under Pilate in some search engines so I was curious if it was a simply typo or misreading of a search result.)

      • 2010-05-25 00:23:17 UTC - 00:23 | Permalink

        Many apologies for this. It was of course indeed a typo, everyone knows that Pilate’s term as Praefectus began in 26. It is a date so well established that once one reads about Pilate, any scholar who works on the time of Jesus remembers it without looking it up. It was still silly to even infer an internet search which no scholar would do for this sort of research. And as your search seems to prove, it is notoriously unreliable. 18-36 as any scholar who works on the era of Jesus also knows off the top of their head, are the dates of the high priest Caiaphas. And Caiaphas was already high priest long before Pilate became Praefectus. But sorry for the typo.

        • 2010-05-26 05:48:35 UTC - 05:48 | Permalink

          You say you read thoroughly anything of mine that you respond to and I have said you do not. You did not read my comment at all thoroughly and your mistake proves it.

          My comment actually specifically said that you gave the dates attributed to “the high priest, not Pilate..

          If you had read my post and not just skimmed a few words of it you would have seen that and responded accordingly the first time.

          My point is proven and your arrogant apology is not accepted.

          While I have exposed your failure to actually read what you think you are responding to, maybe you would like to explain how you can make the outrageously false claims about Doherty’s work when you insist you have actually read his book. I have a draft of a post prepared exposing a few of the outright lies some scholars publish about Doherty and demonstrate they can only make such claims if they either have never read his book or if they are deliberately lying.

          Or maybe, like you, they are so intent on justifying themselves that they only read a few lines here and there and ignore what they smugly think they don’t need to read.

          • 2010-12-20 13:02:02 UTC - 13:02 | Permalink

            A mistake is not a lie Neil and you’ve made mistakes which you’ve acknowledged (actually I remember a post recently where you acknowledged a mistake you made – was it the time you muddled up sir names? – and took a bite at me. Something about me saying it’s only a blog) Except when I make a mistake and acknowledge it, you accuse me of lying.

            that’s right, how can that be hostile? You did call me names but how on earth and why do you expect me to scroll through YOUR blog and look for them now. One time I remember you were making analogies – and I think it was a post round about that silly detective one – you likened me to a vulture or a snake or something. I’m sure you can search for it but I can’t scroll through all your posts which do don’t have to do to find something like that. If this was an academic book which it isn’t, I could look up vulture and snake in the index and find it. Hardly hostile Neil.

            • 2010-12-20 13:16:41 UTC - 13:16 | Permalink

              Stephanie, Stephanie, do please calm down and simply take the time to read with a little care what you are about to respond to. Your “mistake” was at no time said to be a lie but “a mistake”. That such a mistake was made was evidence that you failed to read carefully what you were responding to in the first instance. You were vociferously insisting you do read everything very carefully but your mistake proved this was not the case.

              Since you are now accusing me of even more outrageous things which I never heard before, and for which you even say you are not prepared to supply evidence that they are true — why should I tolerate your presence on this blog any longer?

              (I looked up vulture and snake and serpent in the comments myself and found not a single one in relation to what you are accuse me of here. And you are accusing everyone else of making hostile accusations against you — and when we are bemused and ask for evidence you say you can’t give it or haven’t the time, and accuse us of placing so many onerous demands on you.)

              • 2010-12-20 13:37:51 UTC - 13:37 | Permalink

                oh Neil don’t be so patronising. I am perfectly calm but I wish you’d stop littering my mail box. I’m trying to finish an article which is quite nice to write – about Christmas and I’ve just had good news about a trip to America in two weeks so I’ve been perfectly calm and actually don’t tend to get irritated b y this blog – it evokes another emotion entirely. Now if you look at the Fredrikson post, round about where you likened her to a naughty schoolgirl, I think your analogy of me with something like a bird or a reptile. Maurice might remember – he’s asleep now. And search ‘lie’ or ‘liar’ because you did and several other people know you did too. So maybe you need to calm down … (just joking)

              • 2010-12-20 13:39:01 UTC - 13:39 | Permalink

                skinny comments like these are impossible to read!!

              • 2010-12-20 13:46:10 UTC - 13:46 | Permalink

                and you don’t think the invitation post is rude and insulting and bossy too? We do. And you’re being very bossy telling me to

              • 2010-12-20 15:03:10 UTC - 15:03 | Permalink

                Stephanie, your comments will from now on be moderated. They will not get through if they contain slanderous accusations against me and others here without any supporting evidence.

      • 2010-05-26 08:09:28 UTC - 08:09 | Permalink

        oh neil don’t be so bad tempered. You haven’t ‘proved’ anything. Yes I read your posts thoroughly if I comment but replying to comments are not as straight forward as what I’m replying to is no longer visible and threaded narrow columns are also a pain. And arrogant apology? Goodness me. As for Doherty I’ve already said I am not interested and haven’t time to read any more of your posts. I there is no point engaging with anything I disagree with because of the inevitable abuse and misrepresentation most often from Mr C. I wonder how many others are put off by that who might otherwise dare to disagree with you. I have actually read Doherty and I have reread meticulously particular parts. I have also written up a draft response in view of “Q”. By the way I haven’t even proofread my own comment and I’ve probably forgotten exactly what your comment said because I cannot see it… never mind this is only a blog 🙂

      • 2010-05-26 08:38:36 UTC - 08:38 | Permalink

        I proved you did not read my post the first time carefully when you first responded to it. Your appeal to long threads only deepens the pit of your lie.

        I have at no time abused Crossley and it was he in fact who mis-read my review and complained I said something I did not say at all. You and he make a good team at being very superficial skim-critics.

        And your reply demonstrates that you don’t even care if someone might see blatant falsehoods in what you say publicly about Doherty’s work. This is what I have come to expect from trained biblical scholars. You are learning well.

      • 2010-05-26 09:20:13 UTC - 09:20 | Permalink

        Now warning – I can no longer see your comment. I think you defended yourself from abusing Crossley. I didn’t say you did. He doesn’t engage with you on your blog. You ‘prove’ nothing – I am no longer interested in what you as a blogger and defender of Doherty accuse scholars of on your blog. I am well aware ‘mythicists’ have been misrepresented in scholarship and not engaged with seriously which is why Casey is now writing a proper response which includes responding to Doherty. I am only interested directly with Doherty. I thought you understood that I haven’t time for your blog. Mythicism isn’t the focus of my thesis – “Q” is.

      • 2010-05-26 10:14:17 UTC - 10:14 | Permalink

        btw don’t accuse people of lying when they haven’t. That’s a real carrism. I said I read the posts that I comment on and I do. It’s worse than accusing you of lying when you’ve misrepresented someone. Unless of course your misrepresentation is deliberate distortion which it isn’t.

  • 2010-04-30 21:13:59 UTC - 21:13 | Permalink

    The Case Of The Unidentified Servant

    http://1001errors.com/files/Servant1.html

    • 2010-04-30 22:03:43 UTC - 22:03 | Permalink

      I love it! I have been reading my very first downloaded novel and short stories on my iphone this past week and they have all been from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

      You’ve also given a brilliant conclusion to the case of the identity of the Servant in Isaiah!

  • 2010-05-01 07:29:12 UTC - 07:29 | Permalink

    There is nothing wrong with the analogy of historians doing detective work. I don’t know why you are upset with that. Nonbiblical historians also draw the analogy because it is quite a reasonable one. See Collingwood’s The Idea of History, for example. Of course analogies are not perfect in detail. But I am not taking biblical historians to task for drawing the analogy. My point, surely it is clear enough, is that they do NOT do history the way detectives work.

    The Gospels are NOT primary evidence. They are secondary sources. Only if you use the term “primary evidence” loosely in lay language can the term be justified for the Gospels. Anyone seriously doing history as a scholarly enterprise ought to have some basic grasp of the terminology and philosophy of history and historiography. Biblical historians, as McKnight himself notes, are rarely aware of the nature of the study they claim to be doing. Few have any idea of landmark publications on the nature of history by von Ranke, Collingwood, Carr, Elton, or even the postmodernists.

    ETA: Your tendency to respond on the basis of the most superficial skimming of what you read, and your missing the central points of the posts you attempt to address, is obvious.

  • 2010-05-01 08:13:48 UTC - 08:13 | Permalink

    I am not upset for goodness sake. It is wrong. And you did ‘take biblical historians to task’ a9(without any evidence apart eventually from McGrath, the precise reference I had to find myself and your reference to Crossan was wrong) in your post. And what you have written is a fiction of how detectives work which you made up. The gospels are primary sources and like other primary sources that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily reliable but as a myther you reject primary sources.

    You didn’t bother addressing the rest of what I wrote possibly because it conflicts with your views and you don’t have the answers other mythers don’t have either. Of all those CT articles only Wright recognises scholarship outside his own The others were mostly right in the context of their own sub group of scholarship but others like us actually do read the work of other historians and philosophers and have sections in our personal libraries. So apart from your false analogical fiction, your sweeping accusations are misguided.

    • 2010-05-01 16:41:00 UTC - 16:41 | Permalink

      I did not bother to reply to the rest of your post because it demonstrated your embarrassing failure to actually read the points you thought you were addressing. You very often skim and jump in with replies that demonstrate you have not really read or understood the point you think you are taking on. You come across as someone who is too busy with so much on their mind that you either engage any new arguments and ideas superficially or misguidedly address their package and not their content.

      Casey and Crossley demonstrate no more awareness of historical methodology than any of their American counterparts. They demonstrate perfectly McKnight’s point about ignorance of historiography among biblical “historians”. Crossley cannot even see that he (like most other biblical historians) has violated the most basic approach to narrative evidence pointed out by Hobsbawm, and merely responds with insult (coupled with a superficial reading and misrepresentation of his own — is he your tutor?). Pity, since Carr and Elton who wrote landmark publications on the nature and practice of history as a discipline were both British.

      Primary evidence, by the way, is according to the language of historiography ever since the father of modern history, Leopold von Ranke, evidence that is physically situated at the time and place of the event or person in question. The Gospels that we have are not primary but secondary evidence — their physical existence can be traced no further back than the second and third and fourth centuries. Mythicists (your abusive term “myther” is noted, as also is your failure to consult a dictionary when I last pointed this out to you) actually engage the evidence according to the methodology laid out by historians such as Carr and Elton. It is biblical scholars who, as McKnight points out, are ignorant of basic historical rules and methodology. You might like to consult my post on historical methodology according to real historians, not biblical scholars who change the rules so that they can find the evidence they need to suit their enquiries.

      • 2010-05-02 00:07:06 UTC - 00:07 | Permalink

        You say:
        ‘Casey and Crossley demonstrate no more awareness of historical methodology than any of their American counterparts. They demonstrate perfectly McKnight’s point about ignorance of historiography among biblical “historians”. Crossley cannot even see that he (like most other biblical historians) has violated the most basic approach to narrative evidence pointed out by Hobsbawm, and merely responds with insult…’

        This is completely inaccurate and probably reflects your ’embarrassing failure’ to read the sources you claim to refute. See the essays by Crossley in J.G.Crossley and C.Karner, Writing History, Constructing Religion (Ashgate, 2005), published papers from a conference of the same name, especially the one on ‘Defining History’ (pp. 9-29). Because of Crossley’s work published here, Casey makes much briefer reference to the same debates among ‘historians and people who may or may not be thought of as philosophers of history’ in the opening of his contribution to the same conference, ‘Who’s Afraid of Jesus Christ? Some comments on Attempts to Write a Life of Jesus’ (pp. 129-46), referring briefly to R.J.Evans, In Defence of History (Granta, 1997) and C.B.McCullagh, The Truth of History (Routledge, 1998) for more detailed discussion. Decent European scholars do not share the need of second-rate semi-learned American ‘scholars’ to ‘demonstrate…awareness’ of all their knowledge every time they write about anything. You give no reference to Crossley or Hobsbawm, as so often, so I cannot check them.

        No apologies for comparing the methodology of mythicists to Holocaust deniers. They have in common that they deny the occurrence of major historical events, and do so by means of the appalling methods which they use. Of course they don’t share the same prejudice – everybody knows that. Mythicists generally hold the synoptic Gospels in contempt, caricature their contents and date them ludicrously late. See for example the opening caricature of the ministry of Jesus in F.Zindler, The Jesus The Jews Never Knew (American Atheist Press, 2003), p.2. Zindler has no relevant scholarly qualifications, and no knowledge of historical methodology. Instead, he has profound rejection of Christians and anything in the New Testament or the like. He has even spoken openly in conversation about his being ‘badly treated’ by his former church. This situation has now become so serious in the U.S.A. that a full scholarly refutation, the equivalent of the books of Case and Goguel in the early years of the last century, is now needed. Casey has made basic comments in his forthcoming life of Jesus, and has started work on a book designed to refute the mythicists, with discussion of their methods and those of other historians, both the historians such as Elton and Carr to whom you have referred, and New Testament scholars.

      • 2010-05-04 09:22:10 UTC - 09:22 | Permalink

        The essays by Crossley are about ideology and the nature of history. That is all fine and good. Nothing wrong with discussing that. But there is something far more basic to the historian’s practice and craft that is not the topic of Crossley’s essays, and that is discussed by the likes of Carr, Elton and, yes, Hobsbawm (I have cited them all ad infinitum, so it is cheeky of you to complain I miss one repeat of Hobsbawm’s in a post directed personally and especially to you. You can see the link to the source of the Hobsbawm quote at http://vridar.wordpress.com/2010/03/21/why-christianity-happened-reviewing-chapter-2-of-james-crossleys-book/ )

        The rest of your post is abusive, ignorant, snobbish, jingoistic, and full of ad hominem and non sequiturs. It is clear that you do not wish to discuss the issues but only seek to abuse and insult those who disagree with you or your mentors.

  • Steven Carr
    2010-05-01 15:45:37 UTC - 15:45 | Permalink

    Poor non-Biblical historians do not understand the methods used by True Biblical Historians.

    For example, scholars have determined that Mark was written before 50 AD ie before Christians started not observing Sabbaths.

    How do we know that Mark was written before then? Because he is silent about things that later authors could not assume.

    How do we know that Christians before 50 AD were still observing Sabbaths?

    If they had not been, then Mark would surely have mentioned it. (James Crossley, Date of Mark, page 208)

    A circular argument from silence!

    Mark is silent about some things, so they could not have happened by then,so Mark must have been writing before those things had happened.

    A Google search of ‘surely’ in James Crossley’s book, reveals just how Biblical historians can be ‘sure’ of conclusions which look quite flaky at first glance – not at all the things we ‘surely’ know.

    Biblical historians ‘surely’ know that if something had happened, then a particular text would have mentioned it.

    And they know that if a particular text does not mention something, then it ‘surely’ did not happen.

    Perhaps James just has a literary tick which makes him use ‘surely’ quite so often.

    But it is amazing the number of times he throws the word ‘surely’ around, often at the moments when some sort of argument would have come in handy.

    • 2010-05-02 00:10:34 UTC - 00:10 | Permalink

      Unlike Neil, you have kindly given a reference! But you misrepresent Crossley, Date of Mark, p.208, and make fun of your caricature.

      • Steven Carr
        2010-05-02 02:10:24 UTC - 02:10 | Permalink

        STEPH
        But you misrepresent Crossley, Date of Mark, p.208, and make fun of your caricature.

        CARR
        Steph cannot ever say how Crossley’s arguments are being misrepresented.

        As nobody can read Crossley’s book and say what his arguments actually are, this is not too surprising….

      • 2010-05-02 02:37:38 UTC - 02:37 | Permalink

        you take crossley out of context, quoting a short summary on p.208 of a long argument. As his book is 209 pages long, there’s no point repeating it here. You’re free to go read it yourself as you quite clearly haven’t as you’re just quoting from the three and a half page conclusion.

      • 2010-05-04 10:57:34 UTC - 10:57 | Permalink

        Crossley’s words on p. 208 are: “If a significant number of people were not observing biblical commandments openly and deliberately then there would surely be some hint of this in Mark (and Acts) which there is not. It can be inferred, then, that Christians in the thirties and probably the very early forties largely observed the biblical commandments.”

        Steven has not misrepresented Crossley at all but summed up his words accurately.

        Crossley in this quote is merely repeating what he has asserted throughout his book. Crossley has argued many points with the assertion of this assumption. He supplies no evidence to support this particular assumption. He simply repeats it as if it were a fact: that if christians were not doing X, then Mark would have indicated this.

        If Stephanie has read the book and disagrees then she can supply a page reference or even a quote to show how wrong Steven and I have been about Crossley’s assertion.

  • Steven Carr
    2010-05-01 15:49:38 UTC - 15:49 | Permalink

    STEPH
    Sixthly, no mythicist has yet explained what the features of Judaism taken for granted in our earliest primary source (e.g. Mark 1.34), and the mistakes in our earliest Gospel which can be explained from Mark’s Aramaic sources…

    STEPH
    ‘no, texts are not authentic because they might have an aramaic background. Not even casey says so.’

    CARR
    I don’t understand the reference to Mark 1.34 :-
    ’33The whole town gathered at the door, 34and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.’

  • Steven Carr
    2010-05-02 02:08:38 UTC - 02:08 | Permalink

    STEPH
    sorry a typo – meant Mark 1.32

    CARR
    Still baffled…

    MARK 1:32
    That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed

    STEPH
    No apologies for comparing the methodology of mythicists to Holocaust deniers. They have in common that they deny the occurrence of major historical events, and do so by means of the appalling methods which they use.

    CARR
    In other words, Steph has no way of responding to mythicists except by claiming that mythicist dates of 65 AD for Mark are ‘ludicrousty late’.

    So she resorts to absurd caricature of Holocaust denial, demonstrating that she is not a serious person, just an amateur masquerading as a scholar, and somebody who cannot bring herself even to be civil.

    In the meantime, mythicists continue to point to Paul saying that Jews could not be expected to believe in Jesus, as they had not heard of him, apart from Christians sent to preach about him (Romans 10).

    Steph has no arguments so has to resort to abuse.

    If only she could find some of these Aramaic documents that Casey can read better than the author of Mark.

    But these Aramaic documents only exist in Casey’s head. No serious scholar gives Casey the time of day with his bizarre theories that he can read these non-existent sources better than the author of Mark and so point out where ‘Mark’ read them wrongly.

    No wonder Steph has to compare mythicists with Holocaust deniers when mythicists ask to see evidence for Casey’s Aramaic sources.

    If the Holocaust only existed in anonymous, unsourced Novels, then we would all be Holocaust-deniers….

    • 2010-05-03 00:57:49 UTC - 00:57 | Permalink

      The main points about the interpretation of Mark 1.32 were made by Vincent Taylor in his commentary on Mark (1959). The first phrase ‘describes the late afternoon’, whereas ‘when the sun had set’ ‘defines the time more precisely as sunset….In Mk it is made explicit that it was when the Sabbath ended that the crowds assembled bringing the sick. Then only could the incidents happen without a breach of the Law.’ My point about the significance of this is that Mark has taken it for granted that his audiences know that the Law prohibits the carrying of burdens on the Sabbath (Jer. 17.21-2), which ends when darkness falls, as well as the obvious fact that sick people who have to be carried are heavy enough to be burdens. I am not aware of any mythicist giving a proper explanation of such Jewish assumptions in Mark’s Gospel. Arguments of this kind are at the heart of Crossley’s arguments for the date of Mark c.40CE (on this cf. pp. 86,92,171). Your anti-scholarly argument that ‘Long arguments are always wrong’ denies the point of having scholarly monographs in all subjects. Obviously a correct linear argument with 10 steps has to have 10 correct steps to be valid, whereas arguments of cumulative weight may be valid if enough of them are right. I did not object to you quoting Crossley’s conclusion. I object to you misquoting it, and to you expecting me to repeat the arguments of all 200 odd pages on a blog. Obviously it is based on lots of evidence, which is discussed in detail not put into ‘long lists’. Saying that I have no arguments when I rely on decent scholarly works which have detailed arguments is another falsehood.

      Pouring scorn on Casey’s detailed monographs is no substitute for evidence and argument either. There are no better explanations of Mark’s obvious mistakes than Aramaic sources, and the same applies to a small number of passages in the double tradition material. The small number of New Testament scholars who can read the language Jesus spoke noticed this long ago. For example, Wellhausen noticed that whereas Matt.23.25 ‘cleanse’ was a correct translation of the Aramaic dakkau, Luke 11.41 ‘give alms’ resulted from misreading it as zakkau ‘give alms’ (Einleitung in die drei ersten Evangelien, 2nd edn., 1911). In Wellhausen’s day, however, there was very little Aramaic available, so he could not reconstruct whole sentences, and Black could not always follow Driver’s advice to do so when he repeated it ( M. Black, An Aramaic Approach to the Gospels and Act, (1946), p.12). Casey, writing much later, had more Aramaic available (DSSs etc) so he reconstructed Aramaic sources of whole passages, including Matt. 23.25-6//Luke 11.39-41 (An Aramaic Approach to Q, ch 3). The arguments of such scholars are not consistent with ‘Q’ being a single Greek document. Such sources are likely to have been written on wax tablets, which could be difficult to read, and cannot be expected to have survived. Of course, Casey’s arguments cannot be properly assessed by New Testament scholars who cannot read Aramaic, which is why the most favourable review of his book on Mark was written by an Aramaist in the Journal of Near Eastern Studies who pointed this out (sorry I don’t have the reference here in Nottingham). For the same reasons, the recommendations in the publicity for his forthcoming life of Jesus, which is based to a significant degree on his Aramaic research, are by Allison (Pittsburg), Aus (Berlin), Crossley (Sheffield), Goodacre (Duke) and Muller (Copenhagen), who can. Careful discussion of details of his work include C.A.Evans, Mark 8:27-16.20 (WBC 34b, 2001), pp. 43-4 on Mark 9.12-13: Evans can also read Aramaic.

      • Steven Carr
        2010-05-04 13:52:21 UTC - 13:52 | Permalink

        STEEPH
        There are no better explanations of Mark’s obvious mistakes than Aramaic sources, and the same applies to a small number of passages in the double tradition material

        STEPH
        ‘no, texts are not authentic because they might have an aramaic background. Not even casey says so.’

        CARR
        SO even if Casey can read an Aramaic document he has never seen better than the person who allegedly had it in front of him, even Steph pours scorn on the idea that this makes anything authentic.

      • Steven Carr
        2010-05-04 14:12:48 UTC - 14:12 | Permalink

        STEPH
        My point about the significance of this is that Mark has taken it for granted that his audiences know that the Law prohibits the carrying of burdens on the Sabbath (Jer. 17.21-2), which ends when darkness falls, as well as the obvious fact that sick people who have to be carried are heavy enough to be burdens. I am not aware of any mythicist giving a proper explanation of such Jewish assumptions in Mark’s Gospel.

        CARR
        So Steph tells us ‘her point’. Interesting….

        Of course, Steph at first did not explain the significance of her cite of Mark 1:32.

        By Sheffield-logic, because Steph did not at first explain her cite, this means she took for granted that everybody knew the significance of it.

        An assumption which was clearly wrong, as Steph then had to explain her point in a subsequent post, so smashing her argument that if something is not explained, then it never needed to be explained.

        Her own argument destroyed by her own postings….

        Steph, Crossley and Casey once again employ the most bad possible version of an argument from silence. If Mark does not explain every tiny detail, they take this silence as very important.

        Even though Steph proved with her own postings that people do not always explain everything that needed to be explained.

        Sorry Steph, arguments from silence do not work when they are that horrendously bad. Especially when you disprove your own arguments by the act of explaining them.

        Luke 4
        When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them.

        CARR
        So because Mark says after sunset, and Luke says when the sun was setting, people work out that Mark was written before Christians started not observing the Sabbath, and Luke was written after Christians started not observing the Sabbath?

        Amazing! Can you imagine any non-Bible historian ever dreaming of using arguments as atrociously contrived as that?

    • 2010-05-04 12:21:08 UTC - 12:21 | Permalink

      Steven, you wrote: ‘No serious scholar gives Casey the time of day with his bizarre theories that he can read these non-existent sources better than the author of Mark and so point out where ‘Mark’ read them wrongly.’

      I have attempted repeatedly to find a way to address Crossley’s arguments on dating Mark, and Casey’s in the Aramaic Sources of Mark, and give up every time. I don’t think that there is a single argument for the early date of Mark that is not circular and/or anachronistic. It is all circularity and unsupported/anachronistic assumption in multiple layers.

      Crossley argues, for example, following Casey, that when we read Mark’s Jesus saying “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath”, we are supposed to know from the context of the previous verse that all he meant was “a man is master of the sabbath in the sense of a rabbi or such like Jesus can make decisions about what anyone can do on it.” (Seriously. Not misrepresenting anything here.) The whole episode and statement is reduced to something so mundane and ephemeral that one wonders why on earth it was ever recorded in the first place. (Casey says it was because Jesus was taking on the role of a prophet and defending the poor and hungry! How many hungry people do you know eat raw grain? Especially when they are in a place where they have many acquaintances and have their teacher with them who is not so poor as to have to pick the grain. No one could share a packed lunch with any of them? They were so starved they preferred to eat raw grain to wait a few hours or go back to their house to get a loaf of bread?)

      But when one thinks of the OTHER times Mark uses “Son of Man” clearly as a title for Jesus, Crossley (p.25) reminds such a one that in those cases Mark had “omitted” qualifying verses that WOULD HAVE SHOWN IN THE ORIGINAL SOURCES that “Son of Man” was merely an ordinary label even here for “everyman”. Conclusion? Mark was writing in a “Transition” period — thus the inconsistency is “explained”.

      How can anyone take any of this seriously? The best way to argue against Casey’s and Crossley’s arguments on early dating of Mark is to invite them to read their books. They are caricatures of scholarship. They remind me of the Sokal affair when Alan Sokal wrote that spoof on postmodernism and no-one recognized it as a spoof but all read it so sagaciously! Or something out of a Gilbert and Sullivan satire.

      Of course they look silly when anyone tries to sum up or repeat their arguments. I can understand why Crossley and Steph cry “misrepresentation” or “caricature” when anyone attempts to lay out their points in order to demonstrate their fallacies.

      I’m glad Stephanie has found a few people who will engage them seriously and positively — anyone who studies Aramaic must be eager to find any companions with whom to engage in absorbing discussions.

  • Steven Carr
    2010-05-02 16:12:02 UTC - 16:12 | Permalink

    STEPH
    you take crossley out of context, quoting a short summary on p.208 of a long argument…

    CARR
    What argument?

    Notice that Steph said ‘long argument’ not ‘long lists of evidence’….

    Long arguments are always wrong. If an argument has 10 steps in it, and each step has a 95% chance of being right, then what is the chance of the argument being correct.

    And it is bizarre that Steph whinges about somebody quoting from the author’s conclusion.

    How dare Carr look at Crossley’s conclusion! A True Scholar does not quote an author’s conclusion!

    • 2010-05-03 00:45:02 UTC - 00:45 | Permalink

      obviously arguments are supported by evidence. That is why whole monographs are written. Every discipline has books with long detailed arguments. Only you produce one liners and expect them to be accepted as unsupported truths. Selecting one quote from a short summary conclusion suggests you haven’t read the book otherwise you wouldn’t think his summary represented evidence for his summary. No academic would suggest that it did even if they weren’t convinced by the argument. Only you. Your sarcasm is characteristic of you.

  • Pingback: Evidence for the UNhistorical “fact” of Jesus’ death « Vridar

  • 2010-05-05 04:35:49 UTC - 04:35 | Permalink

    Most of the points on your recent posts are again misleading caricatures. For example, Carr on Mark 1.32: ‘So because Mark says after sunset, and Luke says when the sun was setting, people work out that Mark was written before Christians started not observing the Sabbath, and Luke was written after Christians started not observing the Sabbath?’
    Neither Taylor, nor Casey nor Crossley nor I says this, and it once again misses the main point, that Mark takes for granted Jewish assumptions, in this case that the Sabbath ends at sunset, and people were not supposed to carry burdens on the Sabbath. Carr does not explain this, and describing it as an ‘argument from silence’ is misleading. It is an argument from what Mark does say, and did not need to say.

    Again, you select Crossley and Casey’s view of Mark 2.23-28 to caricature and make fun of. Your comments on Mark 2.28 are complete nonsense, and do not represent what any scholar believes. You give no reference for your quotation, which I do not recognise. You then read the modern world back into your comments. ‘How many hungry people do you know eat raw grain….No one could share a packed lunch with any of them? They were so starved they preferred to eat raw grain to wait a few hours or go back to their house to get a loaf of bread?’ Of course we do not eat raw grain, none of us is that poor! Peah, the grain left at the edges of the field for the poor, was for people who had no house at all, let alone one with a loaf of bread in it. This is why Matthew retells a story of Jesus in which ‘the king’ says, on behalf of others, ‘I was hungry and you gave me to eat….I was naked and you clothed me’ (Matt. 25.35,36), and Luke retold a story of Jesus in which Lazar (short for Eleazar) ‘had been thrown down at his [the rich man’s] gate and longed to be filled from what fell from the rich man’s table.’ Have you no idea how poor people can be, and were in Galilee at the time of Jesus? Some of them had no house, clothing or food. That’s what Jewish people were urged to give alms for!

    Thank-you so much for your reference back to your review of ch 2 of Crossley, Why Jesus Happened?, ch 2. I do not generally read your posts – just the ones I comment on. Your review shows that you can read a book and make intelligent comments on it, without undue caricature, when you wish to. I particularly appreciated some aspects of your critique of his hypothesis that some aspects of Jesus’ ministry and teaching may be explained from socioeconomic conditions in Galilee at the time of Jesus. I am not convinced of that either. This makes nonsense of your creative fiction according to which Casey and Crossley are my ‘mentors’ with whom I am supposed to agree. That is the wrong model for me (and them!), though it seems to be regrettable common in the USA. I came 12,000 miles, when I did not have to, to work with sane secular scholars, not with dominant bullies.

    This however makes all the more nonsense of your comment that ‘Casey and Crossley demonstrate no more awareness of historical methodology than any of their American counterparts.’ You recognize in your critique that Crossley is perfectly well aware of such matters. This also makes nonsense of your response to me: ‘The essays by Crossley are about ideology and the nature of history. That is all fine and good. Nothing wrong with discussing that. But there is something far more basic to the historian’s practice and craft that is not the topic of Crossley’s essays, and that is discussed by the likes of Carr, Elton and, yes, Hobsbawm…’
    This still means that they are not ignorant, though of course they don’t agree with you, which they obviously don’t.

    This also highlights your bossy declarations of how biblical scholars somehow ought to behave exactly like secular historians, as if both were uniform groups. It is obvious from the works which I cited briefly from Casey, namely R.J.Evans, In Defence of History (Granta, 1997) and C.B.McCullagh, The Truth of History (Routledge, 1998) that they are nothing of the kind, as you must surely know perfectly well. In particular, some secular ‘historians’ (?), or perhaps rather ‘postmodernists’ (?), do not believe in historical facts at all. You cite von Ranke as if he were an unassailable authority to whom biblical scholars ought to be obedient. ‘Primary evidence, by the way, is according to the language of historiography ever since the father of modern history, Leopold von Ranke, evidence that is physically situated at the time and place of the event or person in question. The Gospels that we have are not primary but secondary evidence — their physical existence can be traced no further back than the second and third and fourth centuries.’ This misses the point too. Some biblical scholars distinguish between primary sources, such as the documents in the New Testament, Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Dead Sea Scrolls, and secondary literature, that is, works of modern scholarship, for a very good reason. Some people, believing that the New Testament is Holy Scripture, not only believe it, but also believe secondary literature from their own social subgroup as if that were practically sacred too, and must always be right. Critical scholars do not wish them to do this, and the distinction can accordingly be a helpful one. You, however, treat selected quotations from secular historians such as Elton and Hobsbawm, as if your application of them where you will is also inviolable.

    This is especially clear in your recent comments on Doherty, in your blog on James the brother of the Lord. You cite comments from Elton, impeccable in themselves, and apply them to Doherty’s treatment of Gal. 1.19 as if this authoritatively declares Doherty’s exegesis, and your own equally biased exegesis, somehow correct. Doherty is not a properly qualified scholar, and this shows also in his uncritical use of Kloppenborg on ‘Q1’. He treats it as a ‘document’ (Jesus Neither God Nor Man, pp. 307ff). From this he infers for example that ‘In all of Q1 there is scarcely a specifically Jewish idea to be found’ (p.327), and asks ‘whether it is to be reasonably associated with a Jewish Jesus of Nazareth’ (p. 328). Again, he suggests that ‘Q’, in these early strata, was simply a list of sayings, with no associations made to a Jesus or his ministry’ (p.337). But Q1 does not exist and never has! This is precisely the uncritical use of secondary literature on account of which some biblical scholars have made fruitful use of their distinction between primary sources and secondary literature, and no amount of bossy declarations about the authority of selected secular historians, and the ignorance of those biblical scholars whom you choose to cite, can alter that.

  • 2010-05-05 08:43:52 UTC - 08:43 | Permalink

    Steph, you wrote: “Your review shows that you can read a book and make intelligent comments on it, . . . I particularly appreciated some aspects of your critique of his hypothesis that some aspects of Jesus’ ministry and teaching may be explained from socioeconomic conditions in Galilee at the time of Jesus.”

    I find your independent thoughts interesting and encouraging. Crossley’s own comment on that same post was that I had “spectacularly misrepresented” him and that my critique was “bloody weird”. I hope Crossley’s remarks do not necessarily sway you to change your mind about my review. Can I enlist your support in challenging his arguments? 😉

    My blog posts often run in sequential themes, and while I usually link to any earlier post that I am building on, I did not do so in this post about the silly detective analogy. I did not take it seriously enough. My analogy was intended to be a parody. You have not addressed the point I was making, so I owe you a clarifying background. The point I have been addressing in that parody and in many other recent and older posts is not the philosophy or ideology etc of history, but basic practical methods for assessing the existence of a “fact” (not just a “historical fact” — one that is found in history books — but any “fact” at all.)

    Hobsbawm (in that critique you read) sums it up. To avoid repeating the argument here, please have a look at:

    http://vridar.wordpress.com/2010/04/24/historical-facts-and-the-very-unfactual-jesus-contrasting-nonbiblical-history-with-historical-jesus-sham-methodology/ (this particular post seems to have got some unusual attention with over 1500 hits since it was posted last week.)

    and maybe also

    http://vridar.wordpress.com/2010/03/18/contrasting-methods-of-nonbiblical-historians-with-jesus-historians/

    and

    http://vridar.wordpress.com/2010/04/25/scot-mcknights-lament-and-the-fallacy-of-the-hj-historical-method/

    Your repeated assertion that Mark made certain assumptions and that this explains certain features of his text is not a fact, but an interpretation. It needs to be supported with evidence to persuade others. But Crossley and Casey, from what I have read, use circular reasoning to argue that this was his assumption.

    It is circular to say that we know X is true because Y is true, and Y is true because X is true.

    Here let X = “Mark made a particular assumption”; and Y = “particular words were not said”.

    A. We know a certain explanation was omitted by Mark because he made certain assumptions.
    B. We know he made certain assumptions because we know he omitted a certain explanation.

    This is not a parody or caricature. It is an attempt to demonstrate that Crossley’s (and Casey’s) argument is circular and thus logically invalid.

    The same circularity fallacy lies at the foundation of most HJ scholarship. Biblical scholars assume that the Gospel narratives contain real history at their core, but this is only an assumption. As Hobsbawm and Schweitzer acknowledged, you can’t just assume a narrative is historical. You have to have some external evidence to support this assumption. (Background details like real cities or people such as Pilate are not supports — even James Bond novels are set in real places and refer to real people.) But I explain this in the posts I have linked above.

  • 2010-05-06 01:19:41 UTC - 01:19 | Permalink

    Crossley quite rightly complained that you misrepresent him, because you so often do (see again my next comment below). The point of my last response to you is that I think you are right to suppose some aspects of one of his innovative theories are not convincing. As scholars like Crossley and Casey know only too well, there is no proper explanation of why Christianity began. It is a plausible hypothesis that this is because New Testament scholarship is dominated by people who do not believe in historical explanations, because they belong to faith communities which believe the spread of Christianity was due to the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit. So, for example, Crossley’s review of Dunn’s enormous second volume of Christianity in the Making comments that he “misses golden opportunities to provide more rounded explanations for the ‘big why questions’ which could have advanced our knowledge of Christian origins’” and in the end his book “often feels like a heavily referenced, erudite, and fairly conservative rewriting of the book of Acts” (the review is for ‘Theology’, maybe still forthcoming, so I don’t have a more precise reference). Casey therefore used identity theory in his first attempt to explain the early development of Christology (From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God, James Clarke/WJK, 1991), and will use it again if he survives long enough to write Identity and Christian Origins. It is too much to expect what are regrettably among the first serious scholarly attempts to explain the Origins of Christianity will all work first time. At this level, people such as Doherty, who is not a professional scholar, are too incompetent and biased to provide convincing explanations of anything. We need more secular scholars who are fully competent and not hopelessly biased. Then the cumulative effect of all their work could eventually result in a proper and wholly convincing account of why Christianity began and spread (maybe rapidly, maybe not as rapidly as some people like to think). At present too many secular scholars are ex-fundamentalists, and as N.T.Wrong said of Hector Avalos, “Once a fundie always a fundie. He’s just batting for the other side now” (blog no longer available).

    You then misrepresent the work of Crossley and Casey (again!), this time by reducing complex arguments to your own syllogisms. Of course they are interpreting Mark, and providing evidence in support of their arguments. We need to explain why Mark says, for example, that people brought the sick to Jesus ‘when the sun had set’ (Mark 1.32). This would normally be a dotty time to bring them (there would not even be what we would regard as proper lighting), but it makes perfect sense in a Jewish environment, where everyone knew that we must not carry burdens on the Sabbath, which ends at sunset. Crossley and Casey repeatedly argue that this kind of evidence entails Mark’s sources writing from a Jewish environment, which is again where the Aramaic level of the tradition which you recently caricatured in the case of Mark 2.27-8 is also of importance. Many detailed discussions add up to a large argument of cumulative weight, whereas none of the mythicists can explain why this evidence of Jewish assumptions and Aramaisms is there at all, and I do not remember them trying.

    You refer me back to posts on which you made authoritarian use of selected historians working on different things. Careful scholarly work on the Gospels has precious little to do with Mexican bandits, or folk tales, and neither Schweitzer nor Schwartz had recent work on the Gospels, access to things like the DSSs through which our understanding of languages has advanced, and other recent work on ancient writing practices, available to them. Like us, however, they did have to cope with very conservative Christians, who do believe everything in the Gospels, even the Gospel attributed to John.

    • Steven Carr
      2010-12-20 19:08:07 UTC - 19:08 | Permalink

      ‘We need to explain why Mark says, for example, that people brought the sick to Jesus ‘when the sun had set’ ‘

      I thought Casey had explained to you in his book that Mark has no need to explain that people could only be brought at a certain time, because Mark took for granted that people knew details of Jewish law.

      ‘Crossley and Casey repeatedly argue that this kind of evidence entails Mark’s sources writing from a Jewish environment…’

      Are you claiming Christianity originated in a Jewish environment? This breakthrough means that the Gospels must be historical.

      • Steven Carr
        2010-12-20 19:24:25 UTC - 19:24 | Permalink

        That was a bit unfair of me.

        In Mark 1:33. Mark writes that people were brought when the sun had set.

        In Mark 15, doesn’t Mark write that evening had come, and then have people buy things? Didn’t Mark know that buying things on the Sabbath was illegal?

        Have I misunderstood?

        ‘This would normally be a dotty time to bring them (there would not even be what we would regard as proper lighting), but it makes perfect sense in a Jewish environment, where everyone knew that we must not carry burdens on the Sabbath, which ends at sunset.’

        If ‘everyone’ knew that, then this hardly narrows it down to the time of Jesus. It is no more evidence for historicity than accurate details in ‘The Hunt for Red October.’

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  • 2010-12-20 13:53:51 UTC - 13:53 | Permalink

    Very true. In fact, you have made me realize that Santa Claus is a historical character. All our texts confirm that he lives at the north pole. The textual agreement must be based on historical fact.

    Cheers! RichGriese.NET

  • 2010-12-21 01:02:52 UTC - 01:02 | Permalink

    I spent an hour before going to bed through some of your posts but I just scrolled down, didn’t click ‘read more’s or comments. Just noticed a heading were you called McGrath ‘McDaft’.

    However Maurice remembered the analogy this morning: you made an analogy betwen me and a ‘vampire’ and a ‘truly hopeless schoolteacher’, Fredriksen as a ‘naughty schoolgirl’ and ‘mainstream scholars’ (whoever they are) according to which ‘it is easier for a two humped Bactrian camel to be threaded through a No. 10 sized needle that it is for scholars to seriously contemplate a new paradigm” and ‘circular arguments’ which is what analogies are. Your commenters have accused others of ‘an inconsistent dunce’, a ‘troll’ as well as of worshipping ‘Satan’. You accused me of ‘slander’ when I wrote he relies on bloggers as a reasonable conclusion that they are his major audience, based on his own references to Carr, references on the internet and the lay element involved there as well as Carr. You also accuse me of not reading thoroughly let you make mistakes about me without acknowledgement, placing a project in the past tense when it isn’t, claiming that I’m at Sheffield when I’m in Nottingham.

    Maurice will go through his file on you thoroughly at the end but as I wrote earlier the book is about printed scholarship and other authors and not you.

    Incidentally we were in Sheffield this week as Maurice had a public paper to present, and we had dinner with three of the Sheffield staff. One is amused as we all are at the way you have misused his excellent work on Hebrew Bible by applying it to New Testament. He would not do that, it was not intended to be applied like this as the NT is different (bios etc) and written in a different way. Also he is not a mythicist. I will cut and paste this comment and give it to Maurice in case you don’t moderate it. If Maurice has time (he doesn’t want me to spend any more) he will have a quick look in his files for links, but it’s a bit of a messy business at the moment.


    Added by Neil: I think Steph meant to add the comment at this link here as a followup to this comment.


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