2011-04-26

Earl Doherty’s concluding responses to James McGrath’s Menu of Answers for Mythicists

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by Neil Godfrey

This is the final installment of Earl Doherty’s responses to James McGrath’s Menu of Answers for Mythicists. The previous two posts in this series are at

  1. Earl Doherty’s Antidotes for a James McGrath Menu
  2. Continuing Earl Doherty’s Antidotes . . . 7 to 12

This post completes Earl’s responses up to McGrath’s menu item #23.

Menu Entrée #13:

“If, as Earl Doherty suggests, the ‘life’ and ‘death’ of Jesus occurred completely in a celestial realm, is the same true of the recipients of Ephesians?”

Something went awry in the preparation of this dish. Has there been any implication that the recipients of Ephesians are said to operate in a celestial realm? In any case, the comparison seems a pointless one. Locating the Ephesians and their struggle with the demons (6:12) as taking place on earth does nothing to prove the location of their Christ’s redeeming death, since the demons operated both on earth and in the heavens. And Ephesians is one of those documents which shows not the slightest sign of an historical Jesus in the background of the writer’s thought, not even in regard to traditions about healing miracles performed by Jesus on earth which would have demonstrated his power over the demons, an issue which would have been of key significance to the Ephesians community.

Menu Entrée #16:

“If you don’t believe it is possible to deduce the historicity of Jesus from a text purporting to be about him, how can you hope to demonstrate his ahistoricity from those same sources?”

Which “same sources”? The Gospels? The epistles? The early Christian record as a whole? As far as Mark and his redactors are concerned, how do we know what their works were meant to “purport,” especially when later evangelists treat their principal source with no respect for historical accuracy? How can we deduce an historical Jesus from an alleged biography which contains no biography at all, only reworked scripture, no “history remembered” which scholars like John Crossan admit is not to be found in the Gospels? Are we justified in deducing Jesus’ historicity from a set of ‘biographies’ which are all derived from one solitary account written only decades after his alleged passing? How do we know Paul “purported” an historical Jesus when he says nothing about such a person, something that has to be ‘explained’ by claiming he had to save paper and didn’t need to mention him anyway? Those documents can be used to demonstrate ahistoricity because all that historicism can do is claim that they “purport” to be about an historical Jesus. There is no clear indication that they do, and a lot of clear indication that they don’t.

Menu Entrée #17:

“The view that Jesus may have been thought to have lived in the remote past in relation to Paul’s time doesn’t take seriously his expressions of eschatological imminence.”

As most may know, I don’t subscribe to Wells’ interpretation that Paul’s Christ was thought to have lived on earth in some unknown past. But a death and rising in the heavens probably amounts to the same thing in regard to this menu entrée. In either case, I don’t see a problem. If belief in the new Messiah/Christ arose as a result of scriptural study, then, whether on earth or in heaven, the ‘time’ of the redeeming act was unknown or inapplicable. Paul (and others) envision the eschaton as imminent because they believe they have received revelation about it. They are willing to place it in their own time because they want in on the action, and there is no sign that they are concerned about any gap between the Son’s act and its fruition brought about in the present time by God. (Aren’t the ways of God inscrutable?) In fact, more than one epistle writer declares that the secret of Christ has been hidden for long ages and only now revealed—through scripture and the Holy Spirit. The above menu objection could equally apply to modern evangelicals who are convinced (usually through scripture as well) that the Second Coming is just around the corner, despite the delay of two millennia for Jesus’ promised return.

Menu Entrée #19:

“Just saying ‘Maybe Tacitus relied on Christian sources’ is not the same as making an actual case that Tacitus would have trusted Christian sources or that he had no independent information about Christianity or Jesus.”

Of course it’s not the same, but if a good case can be made (and it definitely can) that the likelihood is that Tacitus did not consult an official record, then this weakens if not discredits the reliance historicists like to place on him as a witness to an historical Jesus. Moreover, a good case can also be made that the entire passage is an interpolation, for Christian writers and Roman historians alike for the next three centuries never refer not just to the literary account in Tacitus but to any tradition of their own about Nero’s accusation of arson and his horrendous slaughter of Christians, a silence that is inexplicable. All that they can specifically say of martyrdom at the time of Nero relates to legends about Peter and Paul, and not even these are in connection to the Great Fire. All signs point to the account in Tacitus as being a later fiction, and that no such persecution took place, which deep-sixes the reference to “Christus” along with it (see my extensive discussion of this in Jesus: Neither God Nor Man).

Menu Entrée #20: (Yet another appeal to authority)

“Doesn’t the fact that mainstream historians consistently find scenarios involving a historical Jesus the most plausible way to account for the evidence we have, coupled with the fact that mythicists consistently fail to provide a more persuasive alternative scenario, itself constitute evidence against mythicism and in favor of mainstream historical scholarship?”

Doesn’t the fact that Ptolemaic astronomy consistently found scenarios involving an earth-centered universe the most plausible way to account for the cosmological evidence they had, coupled with the fact that only a few Greek astronomers provided alternative scenarios of a sun-centered universe which the rest of the world regarded as unpersuasive, itself constitute evidence against solar centricity and in favor of the Ptolemaic system?

Menu Entrée #21:

“The fact that something resembles a story from Scripture doesn’t mean that it was invented on the basis of that story. Applying Scripture to things was a common way of interpreting the significance of people and events, and fitting events into earlier types was a common memory aid. And, once again, that’s not what midrash refers to!”

The term “midrash” is used with a wider application in modern New Testament study than it had in ancient rabbinic practice. I use it in the same sense that John Shelby Spong does in his books. And let’s take an example: the Feeding of the 4000 / 5000 miracle stories in Mark. No critical scholar today fails to acknowledge that this scene is constructed entirely out of elements from the feeding miracle by Elisha in 2 Kings 4:42-44; nothing in it can be identified as coming from oral tradition about such an event in the ministry of Jesus himself. (A similar situation exists in regard to virtually everything else about the story of Jesus in the Gospels.) If this miracle had its origin in oral memory, why would it not have preserved elements from that tradition? How indeed would it be remembered and passed on at all if it did not entail any historical elements? Why would the evangelists feel it necessary or desirable to set aside any such elements (even if developed only in the early church) in favor of scripture-derived invention? Would it help audiences to “remember” Kennedy’s assassination by having historians describe it solely in terms of being shot with a hand gun in a theatre box while watching a play (<à la Lincoln)? And if no such event (even if exaggerated and ‘miracle-ized’) ever happened, then it would be inarguably an “invention.”

Why is it that the entire epistolary record in almost the first hundred years contains not a single tradition (authentic or not) of a miracle by Jesus, or even a mention that he had performed such things? Could a preacher of the Kingdom, an “itinerant exorcist,” have generated no surviving tradition that he had been a miracle worker, no interest in such by every early writer in the movement? Those stories “resembling” scripture, when they have, perplexingly, no external corroboration and no elements of preserved memory, are almost certainly to have been just that—“invented.”

Menu Entrée #22:

“You still have not shown that it is more likely that someone would make up a crucified Davidic Messiah than that such a belief arose as a result of someone thought to be the Messiah being crucified and subsequent efforts to deal with the cognitive dissonance.”

There is a subtle piece of question-begging going on here. The latter alternative is only more likely if indeed such a man existed. One cannot assume he did so, or adopt as an axiom that the Gospels represent the story of a real man, and then on that basis declare the latter alternative as more likely. The question is: does the evidence in the record as a whole indicate that such a man did live and that the Gospels are meant to be history? Mythicism makes the case that both answers are “No.” One cannot appeal to the Gospels as history to prove that the Gospels and their central character are history. An historical Jesus is not to be found anywhere else until the Gospels become disseminated and interpreted as history.

No one can deny that scripture contains all the elements to create a picture and prophecy of a crucified Messiah. After all, Christians for almost two millennia have claimed, and still do, validity for their beliefs about their divine Jesus on the basis that everything about him in the Gospels was to be found ahead of time in scripture. The message of the epistles themselves is that knowledge about their long-hidden Christ comes from scripture, though with no reference to any fulfilment-in-history idea. Given the religious spirit of the times, with its popular faith centered on mythical dying and rising deities, exerting a strong external pressure, there is nothing more natural than the theory that the first Christ-cult believers did indeed turn their scriptural study and imaginations to “making up” a crucified Davidic Messiah, and that the philosophical and cosmological atmosphere of a period dominated by Platonism could lead them to envisioning him as a spiritual entity and placing his actions in the spirit-populated heavens.

Menu Entrée #23:

“Please stop. You’ve said that before and now you’re just wasting my time.”

Yes, and it looks like we’ll have to keep saying these things until historicists show that they understand mythicism’s arguments, are willing to give them honest evaluation, and can provide effective answers to them. Long before the latter is forthcoming, however, we may see the Department of Public Health closing down eateries like the Matrix in the interests of rational and scientific integrity and the dietary requirements befitting a 21st century society.

Earl Doherty

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  • 2011-04-26 15:08:54 UTC - 15:08 | Permalink

    Do McGrath and other historicists really think Tacitus had independent information about Jesus and the crucifixion? If so, wouldn’t he have referred to Pilate as prefect instead of procurator? I’ve never heard a credulous scholar or an apologist try to explain that one away, but I think it would be fun to watch.

    • GakuseiDon
      2011-04-27 08:50:25 UTC - 08:50 | Permalink

      Do McGrath and other historicists really think Tacitus had independent information about Jesus and the crucifixion? If so, wouldn’t he have referred to Pilate as prefect instead of procurator? I’ve never heard a credulous scholar or an apologist try to explain that one away, but I think it would be fun to watch.

      Tim, Richard Carrier writes:
      http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/jesuspuzzle.html

      “It seems evident from all the source material available that the post was always a prefecture, and also a procuratorship. Pilate was almost certainly holding both posts simultaneously, a practice that was likely established from the start when Judaea was annexed in 6 A.D. And since it is more insulting (to an elitist like Tacitus and his readers) to be a procurator, and even more insulting to be executed by one, it is likely Tacitus chose that office out of his well-known sense of malicious wit.”

      • 2011-04-27 11:00:53 UTC - 11:00 | Permalink

        That’s quite interesting, and I’d love to see the primary evidence that Carrier alludes to. In all the sources I have looked at, the consensus seems to be that from 6 CE to about 44 CE, the governors were called prefects (as proven by the Pilate Stone) and that the term procurator was not used until after the death of Herod Agrippa. After 70 CE, the governors were Legates, since Rome was now in a full state of war against the Judean rebels. See:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Hasmonean_and_Herodian_rulers#The_Administration_of_Judaea_.28AD_6.E2.80.93135.29

        Nor does there seem to be any reason to think that calling him a procurator was insulting, since there doesn’t seem to be an extreme degree of difference between the two terms. See:

        http://people.usd.edu/~clehmann/erp/Palestine/administ.htm

        In fact, the first procurator, Cuspius Fadus, was the also the first governor to have jurisdiction over Galilee. I was always under the impression that it was the fact that the governor now had dominion not only of the Prefecture of Judea but also of Galilee (following Agrippa’s death) which was the main reason for calling the expanded post a procuratorship. If anything, it would imply the “procurator” had more responsibility and a larger province to govern.

        I have a great deal of respect for Carrier as a historian, though, so I’ll suspend judgment. All he needs to do is demonstrate that the governors used the titles interchangeably, explain why the Pilate Stone bearing the title, “Prefect,” doesn’t matter, and show that the title of procurator had some stigma attached to it. It would also be nice to know what “all the source material” refers to, since I’m not aware of much besides Josephus, who, it must be granted, is not always the most careful writer.

        Does anyone know if Carrier has published his “findings” yet?

        • Geoff Hudson
          2011-04-28 23:32:19 UTC - 23:32 | Permalink

          Tim, when do you think Agrippa died?

          • 2011-04-29 00:31:54 UTC - 00:31 | Permalink

            44 CE. Got a different source?

          • Geoff Hudson
            2011-04-29 03:51:02 UTC - 03:51 | Permalink

            What is your source? Josephus? Have you read the account of Agrippa’s death in Josephus? You surely don’t believe this fanciful account, do you? Doesn’t it make you think the account was contrived?

      • Geoff Hudson
        2011-04-28 23:22:22 UTC - 23:22 | Permalink

        What evidence would you cite “from all the source material” for saying that that a prefect was also procurator? The only “concrete” evidence that you can cite is the inscription found at Caesarea that Pilate was a prefect – a local military chief of police for the Roman army based at Caesarea. And how do you know that the editors of Josephus were not having everyone on, even to the point that they had Judea annexed early in the first century? As for Tacitus, where did he get his information from? It wouldn’t have been from Flavian historians would it?

  • Steven Carr
    2011-04-26 18:44:55 UTC - 18:44 | Permalink

    McGrath is a True Scholar.

    He knows 1) Paul refers to Jesus as crucified by archons.

    McGrath also knows 2) The author of Ephesians says they battle not against flesh and blood, but against archons and spiritual wickedness in high places.

    So McGrath concludes 3) Paul thought Jesus was crucified by flesh and blood people.

    Could somebody run that last step by me again?

  • vorpal
    2011-04-27 04:53:39 UTC - 04:53 | Permalink

    The more I read and listen to Christian “thinkers” the more Christianity seems like Judaism reworked by hucksters to be sold as a religion of the people. Jesus of Nazareth, “the Greatest Mountebank that Never Lived”.

    I don’t hold a grudge against your typical Christian. In general, I like them, but the hucksters they call ministers, priests and theologians … well, here I must quote H.L. Mencken, because he said it best.

    “Deep within the heart of every evangelist lies the wreck of a car salesman.”

    Thanks Earl!

  • exrelayman
    2011-04-27 07:28:48 UTC - 07:28 | Permalink

    Please Steven Carr or someone refer me to more info about Paul attributing crucifixion to archons. Thanks

    Thanks vorpal for the Menken quote.

    • 2011-04-27 08:13:25 UTC - 08:13 | Permalink

      Some of those who judge “rulers of this age” [1 Cor. 2:6/8] to be a reference to the demon spirits: S. G. F. Brandon (History, Time and Deity, p.167), C. K. Barrett (First Epistle to the Corinthians, p.72), Jean Héring (The First Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians, p.16-17), Paula Fredriksen (From Jesus to Christ, p.56), S. D. F. Salmond (Expositor’s Greek Testament: Ephesians, p.284). Delling, in the article on “archōn” in the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (I, p.488-9) regards the phrase “tou aiōnos toutou” as an objective, not a temporal genitive, and thus the term is “not, then, referring to earthly rulers” (n.7). Paul Ellingworth (A Translator’s Handbook for 1 Corinthians, p.46) says: “A majority of scholars think that supernatural powers are intended here.”

      From JNGNM (p.105-6):

      S. G. F. Brandon (History, Time and Deity, p.167) is one scholar who faces unflinchingly the conclusion that though Paul’s statement “may seem on cursory reading to refer to the Crucifixion as an historical event…the expression ‘rulers of this age’ does not mean the Roman and Jewish authorities. Instead, it denotes the daemonic powers who were believed to inhabit the planets [the celestial spheres] and control the destinies of men….Paul attributes the Crucifixion not to Pontius Pilate and the Jewish leaders, but to these planetary powers.”

      However, Brandon (like everyone else) fails to address the question of how Paul could have spoken in such terms if he knew the tradition of Jesus’ death in Judea, providing no qualification to this supernatural picture. The suggestion that since earthly rulers are considered to be controlled by heavenly ones the latter are seen as operating “through” the former is simply reading the idea into the text. By the time we get to the Gospel picture which first makes a clear reference to earthly rulers in the death of Jesus, the heavenly dimension which supposedly lies behind them disappears, or in the case of John retires into the distant allusive background. John, incidentally, regularly refers to Satan as “the prince/ruler [archōn] of this world,” which is the singular form of Paul’s plural “rulers.”

      Moreover, we have noted that any role for earthly rulers in the crucifixion of Jesus would have influenced Paul’s thinking about their character. He could never have said, as he does in Romans 13:3-4, that “Rulers [here using archontes in its human meaning] hold no terrors for them who do right…(the ruler) is the minister of God for your own good….He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” The Gospel picture would have contradicted the spirit of this statement and created the implication that Jesus was a wrongdoer. Paul’s words imply that he knew nothing of Pilate or other earthly rulers having had a hand in the death of his Christ Jesus.

      (Sorry for not taking the time to italicize.)

      • exrelayman
        2011-04-27 08:47:06 UTC - 08:47 | Permalink

        Wow! I am simply gobsmacked to receive such a quick response. Thanks Earl, ever so much. Somewhere in the back of my mind there was an ‘almost’ connection between Satan running rampant on this world and the ‘powers/princes’ of the Corinthians passage, but not strong enough to put it together.

        Seems to me like this way of viewing these passages makes it a little more clear why Gnostics and other factions deeming Jesus a non physical being were thriving in the early days.

      • Steven Carr
        2011-04-27 15:52:03 UTC - 15:52 | Permalink

        ‘“A majority of scholars think that supernatural powers are intended here.”’

        Including presumably McGrath who is clear that the language in Ephesians 6:12 is the same language Paul used to talk about jesus.

        See http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/crucifixion/ for how mainstream NT scholars are unable to register what Paul is saying in Romans 13.

        For them, Paul is silent as they cannot hear what he is saying.

        And as they cannot register Paul’s words, arguments based on Paul’s words are ‘arguments from silence’ as they cannot hear Paul.

  • 2011-04-27 10:31:22 UTC - 10:31 | Permalink

    Well, I responded directly on the Matrix site to McGrath’s latest rebuttal to this last instalment of “Antidotes” (I managed to keep within his character limit). And lo and behold! once again it disappeared a short time after it got posted. I no longer doubt that McGrath is removing posts that embarrass him.

    This was it:

    Dr. Jim McGrath’s responses to my Antidotes feature illustrates exactly why it is so difficult to debate historicists like himself. He misreads what I say, misapplies it to the texts, and misrepresents it to his readers. Then he sets up goalposts for mythicists to achieve which are of his own making and are designed to make it impossible to do so. I’ll take one example from his post:

    #13: The point is simply that the sort of language that mythicists interpret as referring to a celestial Jesus is applied to apparently earthly Christians in Ephesians. The only reason mythicists interpret the language differently in the case of the recipients of the letter is that here there is little room for ambiguity. But ambiguity in the language applied to Jesus, in and of itself, leaves historicist and mythicist options open. To say that the letter otherwise shows no interest in a historical Jesus is simply begging the question. The letter shows relatively little interest in the historical recipients other than their battles with spiritual powers. To show that one can interpret a letter like this one as viewing Christ as a purely celestial figure is not the same as showing that the letter is better interpreted that way, much less that it can only be interpreted that way.

    Colossians 2:15: “On that cross he discarded the cosmic powers and authorities like a garment; he made a public spectacle of them and led them as captives in his triumphal procession.”

    Ephesians 6:12: “For our fight is not against human foes, but against cosmic powers, against the authorities and potentates of this dark world, against the superhuman forces of evil in the heavens.”

    What is the similar language between these two? Merely referring to cosmic powers? Colossians talks of an action on the part of Christ in relation to the cosmic powers, the archons. Ephesians speaks of no specific action at all, just some “struggle.” The point about the Colossians passage is that the action it speaks of cannot be an earthly one. There is no similar ‘language’ for Ephesians. They can struggle with the demons by praying to God to deliver them, they can cast spells, or whatever people thought was effective in warding off the activities of the demons.

    Apparently McGrath does not see the difference here. He has not understood my argument. Instead, he misrepresents it in his own interests. Virtually every rejoinder he has presented has been guilty of the same sort of thing. He goes on:

    “To say that the letter otherwise shows no interest in a historical Jesus is simply begging the question. The letter shows relatively little interest in the historical recipients other than their battles with spiritual powers.”

    First, there is no “otherwise.” What is the “other” to which he is contrasting the rest of the letter? 6:12 is hardly a candidate for interest in an historical Jesus.

    Second, the following sentence is a non-sequitur to the first one, since he switches to “an interest in the historical recipients of the letter.”

    How can one deal with mental processes, with confused and irrational arguments, like this? And how can demonstrating that Ephesians shows no interest in an HJ (which any reading of the letter will confirm) be “begging the question”? Does he even understand the meaning of that term? (It is not “circularity,” which he offered earlier.)

    I particularly focused on the lack of any reference to an earthly Jesus as someone reputed to have healed by exorcising demons, which would have shown that Christ on earth had exercised power over the demons. Could any writer fixated on the “struggle with the cosmic powers, the superhuman forces of evil in the heavens” have had no interest in even mentioning that such a struggle was actually engaged in by Jesus on earth, and victoriously? By pointing out that silence, am I “begging the question”? Pointing it out is a DEMONSTRATION of my claim; I have demonstrated that lack of interest in an historical Jesus.

    If one’s opponent cannot even follow the basics of logical argument, how is one supposed to deal with him?

  • 2011-04-27 11:58:23 UTC - 11:58 | Permalink

    Just to let you all know that, after I complained on the Matrix, my posting mysteriously reappeared.

    • 2011-04-27 12:49:07 UTC - 12:49 | Permalink

      James McGrath in response once again crumbles under the weight of the basics of logical argument and pitifully pleads that he would rather think the same way as his peers than be so persuaded.

      Curiosly though, he has failed to register that even among his own peers there are those who acknowledge the logical flaws underpinning their historicist arguments (though most of them still cling to the belief in the historicity of Jesus): e.g. Jim West, Dale C. Allison, Thomas L. Thompson, and the late Albert Schweitzer and E. Schwartz.

      • 2011-04-27 14:17:39 UTC - 14:17 | Permalink

        McG.: “If the standards of historical scholarship are impossible for mythicists to meet, so much the worse for mythicists.”

        Whooooooosh.

      • 2011-04-27 14:23:35 UTC - 14:23 | Permalink

        He cannot be serious.

    • Havok
      2011-04-27 17:10:50 UTC - 17:10 | Permalink

      Earl, “blogger” has a rather unreliable commenting system which can classify comment as “spam” or simply vanish it for no apparent – the strange behaviour is not necessarily due to McGrath.

  • 2011-04-27 14:36:18 UTC - 14:36 | Permalink

    James McGrath has also had difficulty in following the culinary critic’s review of Menu Entree #22. The logic has so escaped him that he is convinced there is magic trickery in there somewhere! He even thinks he’s spotted where the devil’s art comes into play.

    He is thus able to conclude that Doherty’s arguments are not fair because he only brings up the “begging the question” rule (which he confuses with circular reasoning, but I can forgive him on that one) at the end of the game!

    He is so confused by it all that he even thinks that the logic of the argument means that it will be impossible to conclude anything at all about historicity from the texts.

    As Earl says, how is one supposed to deal with one who cannot even follow the basics of logical argument?

    • 2011-04-27 17:20:11 UTC - 17:20 | Permalink

      I tried to post on McG’s Matrix, but I keep getting errors on submit. Maybe it’s a sign from Heaven, Hallelujah! Anyway, here’s what I was trying to post:

      ————–
      At the risk of being chided for quote-mining, Dr. McGrath wrote:

      “But in the case of mythicism, the lack of repeated clear statements of Jesus’ status as a historical figure is highlighted as though it were evidence for mythicism, and no mention is made of the fact that this could simply represent a failure to state the obvious.”

      I know of no mythicist who argues that it is remarkable that Paul does not frequently and clearly say, “Jesus was a real, historical person.” What they do say is that it is rather unexpected that Paul is nearly always silent in places where an appeal to the logia of Jesus would strengthen his arguments.

      And what is doubly strange is the fact the Paul will instead resort to long, tortured digressions about Adam, Abraham, and Moses, when we’re pretty sure he was writing to an audience composed mostly of Gentiles.

      I agree with the following statement wholeheartedly: “[Y]ou are incredibly unlikely to emphasize that a person you refer to actually existed.”

      Exactly so, but you are also incredibly unlikely not to appeal to the ultimate authority on questions of doctrine when people are asking you such questions. And if you’re writing to a group who has never met you, and you’re trying to explain your beliefs to that group (like Paul to the Romans), it would be wholly unexpected that you wouldn’t use the Great Teacher’s words to bolster your own points.

      Do you have a theory that accounts for Paul’s behavior beyond the argument that papyrus was expensive?

    • 2011-04-27 23:44:21 UTC - 23:44 | Permalink

      “begging the question” rule (which he confuses with circular reasoning, but I can forgive him on that one)

      What am I saying?! This guy’s a professor, a teacher, a public “intellectual”! Why after reading his stuff for a few minutes do I begin making the same allowances for him as I do for those whose education has not been so extensive?

      • 2011-04-28 03:05:09 UTC - 03:05 | Permalink

        When a public intellectual shows a lack of familiarity with basic logic, it’s no big deal. (Although every time McG makes a logic error, Aristotle weeps.) However, when the Amazing Randi misspeaks and about Nazareth in John 1, it’s an invitation for the McG Fanboy Club to pile on.

        http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com/2011/04/mythicism-meets-mandaism.html#comments

        (Warning: McGrath’s unpleasant smugshot can be seen directly below the embedded video.)

        At least you can argue that Philip says they’ve found the Messiah, Jesus of Nazareth, to which Nathanael asks rhetorically, “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” So John does perpetuate the Nazareth Myth. No matter, though. No slack! No quarter! The mistake is apparently so huge it is now open season on this freethinker who doesn’t think the way he’s supposed to.

        Of course, Randi’s big thought crime is agreeing with Rene Salm. How serious is Randi’s transgression? McG says, “When it comes to thinking freely and promoting freethought, the enemy of your enemy is not always your friend.” Hence, agreeing with Rene Salm is so double-plus ungood that it makes you an enemy.

        A useful object lesson in how modern scholarship works.

        • 2011-04-28 09:23:56 UTC - 09:23 | Permalink

          It must hurt. Randi makes even scholarly Bible believers look like Creationists.

          • 2011-04-28 11:42:04 UTC - 11:42 | Permalink

            Adding insult to injury, McG. compares mythicists to birthers.

            http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com/2011/04/birthers-mythicists-and-creationists.html#comments

            How nice. To what shall I compare the credulists? People who buy a lottery ticket and think that purchasing a second ticket significantly increases their chances? People who trust forwarded emails in 14-point Comic Sans, because “Why would anybody make it up?” People who believe that thinking critically means taking a poll of the experts? People who couldn’t construct a proper syllogism if their lives depended on it?

            • 2011-04-28 12:10:51 UTC - 12:10 | Permalink

              As you indicate, what, apart from insult, can one expect from a professor for whom universally accepted logical processes are, virtually by his own admissions, nefarious magic tricks?

              He’s met bloggers on Verenna’s site and Doherty himself on his own site and he has publicly confessed he simply has no answer for logical processes. What else is left for him but to retreat into his theologian’s enclave and sputter insults?

            • Steven Carr
              2011-04-28 17:03:24 UTC - 17:03 | Permalink

              Is it about time to wheel out McGrath claiming historians use fabricated material?

              Historians agree the stories of Obama/Jesus being born in Kenya/Bethlehem are fabricated, inconsistent and created by an ideology.

              Nevertheless, a True Historian uses these fabricated stories to deduce that Jesus/Obama was born around 4BC/somewhere in Kenya

              • 2011-04-28 17:36:34 UTC - 17:36 | Permalink

                For those unaware of the background to Steven’s reference, McGrath’s famous statement is found in his review of Dale C. Allison’s new publication.

                I also wrote a post on the key passage in Allison’s book.

              • Evan
                2011-04-29 00:01:10 UTC - 00:01 | Permalink

                Even fabricated material may provide a true sense of the gist of what (Robin Hood, John Frum, Romulus, Hercules, William Tell, King Arthur, Sherlock Holmes, Paul Bunyan, Bruce Wayne) was about, however inauthentic it may be as far as the specific details are concerned.

                That’s great! Soon we’ll make Grendel historical!

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  • Tom Verenna
    2012-02-27 11:53:14 UTC - 11:53 | Permalink
    • 2012-02-27 15:50:57 UTC - 15:50 | Permalink

      Thank you, Tom. That was enlightening and a fun read to boot.

      If you’re a Roman history buff (as I’ve been since my early 20s), you’ve already read Tacitus, Livy, Suetonius et al., not out of the desperate anxiety to prove the existence of a historical Jesus, but because they’re . . . you know . . . ancient historians.

      It reminds me very much of Creationists and the way they quote the Second Law of Thermodynamics. Do you think any one of them can quote the first or third law?

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