2010-07-11

Does McGrath think Hoffmann, Davies, Schweitzer, Thompson, Schwartz, et al are Creationist-like crackpots?

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by Neil Godfrey

In my two latest posts attempting to epitomize a couple of aspects of R. Joseph Hoffmann’s thoughts as expressed in his introduction to Goguel’s Jesus the Nazarene, I could not help but be struck by Hoffmann’s remark that a reason for the scholarly debate over Jesus mythicism was largely a desperate response designed to salvage the basics of Christianity itself from the direction in which liberal theology was veering. It was one thing for scholars to jettison a miracle working Jesus, but they could not do without the ethical teacher. At least that latter had to be defended at all costs, and so the mythicist debate was left behind in the dust.

Hoffmann recently corrected me (rightly) when I ignorantly misrepresented the reason for his republication of Goguel’s book (I had not read his book at the time), but in doing so he opined that the reason the Jesus mythicist debate is less prominent than it perhaps deserves to be in academia has more “to do with academic appointments (as in security thereof) rather than common sense.”

On both counts, here, — the ideological reason for jettisoning serious continuation of the mythicist debate, and career threatening political correctness — one begins to understand why Jesus historicists who repeatedly shout that the mythicist question was “finally settled and fully rebutted” long ago never seem to accompany their war cries with evidence, citations, publications. Just shouting loud and long (with crude insults and misrepresentations as repeated refrains) that the debate was settled long ago and only looneys persist to ask questions about it seems to be sufficient assurance for some historicists.

When I raise questions about the methodology of the mainstream NT historians, contrasting it with clear and specific claims and examples from nonbiblical historians, McGrath unfortunately sees fit to condescendingly respond as if I am in some sort of self-deceptive “creationist” like mindset — even comparing me with thinking the way he himself used to think as a creationist, thus strongly indicating he is really only projecting his own image into others. Yet my arguments are no different from those of mainstream historians, and McGrath himself has demonstrated his own ignorance of mainstream history by embarrassingly failing to recognize (he is a professor and historian after all!), and then misunderstanding egregiously, the famous von Ranke quote I had expected every history undergraduate to recognize, that “history is an art”. (Von Ranke, commonly renowned as “a father of modern history”, used the expression in reference to how the historian crafts his story around the facts — not how he “discovers” facts.)

McGrath has compounded his ignorant attacks on my posts by pointing to how the methodology I advocate has led to an understanding that the OT texts being written centuries after the actual setting of their narratives, and said my method is invalid because the gospels were not written centuries after their narrative setting. In other words, he confuses the results of the methodology in one context with the actual methodology itself, oblivious to the obvious fact that different results are to be expected in a different context!

If McGrath was more gentleman than reputed scholar, I would be less inclined to think of ditties or limericks that rhyme with daft.

So given all that this self-proclaimed “historian” has said about me personally, I wonder what he must be thinking of someone like Hoffmann who also appears to acknowledge the validity of asking the mythical Jesus question, or nonmythicist Davies who has publicly expressed high praise indeed for the works of Doherty, or of Schweitzer who, just as I have been arguing myself, conceded the theoretical impossibility of sound historical method establishing the historicity of Jesus even as high as “a probability”, the scholarly giant who has had an enormous impact on the direction of Old Testament studies, Thompson, or even that otherwise little known Schwartz whose 1904 remarks I have quoted so often. (All of these quoted often here, but see Legitimacy of Questioning, and Relevance)

Do historicists like McGrath (who, incidentally, in his latest attacks has even resorted to slurring the commenters who contribute to this blog!) condescend to pigeon hole any of the above as thinking like himself in an earlier life, like looney creationists? I wonder.

(P.S. I originally included Watts in the title of this post, but given his apparent compulsion to tell outright lies about what I write without so much as even reading anything I write, and that he even strongly implies he is actually entitled to be dishonest because he lacks a post-graduate degree, I really don’t think he deserves any attention at all.)

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