Daily Archives: 2011-05-24 17:38:53 UTC

McGrath does not read what he claims to be reviewing

What else am I to conclude? The evidence McGrath provides for his claim to have read chapter 6 of Doherty’s book is that he can cite names and topics that Doherty uses in that chapter. But at the same time McGrath strongly indicates that he merely glanced at those references and never bothered to read what Doherty was actually arguing. This is surely a kinder criticism than to suggest that McGrath cannot comprehend what he reads or deliberately suppresses what he reads.

(References in this post can be followed from McGrath’s pseudo-review of chapter 6 here, and from my outline of Doherty’s argument in chapter 6 here.)

Example. McGrath writes:

Doherty proceeds to consider details from the Gospels that he considers it (sic) surprising Paul and other epistle writers never mention in their letters. Often his response to the material borders on the bizarre. Why is it surprising that the later and clearly legendary details in the infancy stories in Matthew and Luke are not reflected in earlier literature? It is unsurprising to mainstream historical scholarship, which is familiar with countless examples of the same phenomenon, namely the development of mythologized birth stories around a historical figure.

I would have expected an honest reviewer to at least give a nod to Doherty’s argument. But not McGrath. read more »

McGrath’s suppression of Doherty’s arguments: Ignatius

I had half hoped that by posting an outline of Doherty’s arguments in chapter 6 ahead of James McGrath’s review of that chapter I would be encouraging him to be honest with the content he claims to be reviewing. Unfortunately, it appears I have misjudged him. For example, the first specific criticism refers to Doherty’s reference to Ignatius. Here is McGrath’s criticism:

Doherty also [sic] notes that Ignatius knows biographical details about Jesus, even though he does not show clear signs of knowing written Gospels such as those that made it into the New Testament (pp.57-58). That these considerations might themselves provide reasons for drawing a conclusion different than the one Doherty is heading for is never considered. (“Also”? McGrath has not stated any earlier argument or point Doherty makes about Ignatius at all, but has only given his own irrelevant argument that Ignatius’s attack on Docetism does not necessarily mean a rejection of historicity.)

All McGrath can bring himself to argue here is that Doherty fails to consider that Ignatius’ reference to biographical details of Jesus might be an argument for historicity! Well, when Ignatius speaks of Jesus’ biographical details, it is understood he thinks Jesus is historical. Doherty is addressing the contrary evidence that McGrath complains Doherty does not address, but faults him for not using it in a way that would support McGrath’s beliefs.

What McGrath actually wants Doherty to say here is left unsaid. McGrath’s own rebuttal of Doherty’s point is nonexistent. The bottom line is that McGrath faults Doherty for arguing mythicism and for not using Ignatius to argue for historical Jesus. But how McGrath would use the evidence of Ignatius to overturn Doherty’s argument is left a mystery. read more »

Earl Doherty responds: “It’s too bad Jim did not actually refute the arguments . . .”

Well, since he couldn’t cope with me in the exchanges over his review of my book on his own blog (responses to chapter 1; to chapter 2; to chapter 3; to chapter 4; to chapter 5), Jim regrettably has had to have recourse to a garbage review on Amazon. The following was the result of his reading 5% of the book, addressing none of the key chapters or issues involving my case, and ignoring the feedback arguments I gave him on the five chapters he did review. He also ignored all of the negative reactions from others on his blog who were less than sympathetic to his rabidly hostile, and usually irrational, treatment of mythicists and mythicism. What he wrote on Amazon he could have written—and would have—even before opening Jesus: Neither God Nor Man. Instead of anything approaching a substantive criticism of my book or parts of my case, which might have given pause to those in doubt, this thoroughly condemnatory and arrogant dismissal has actually demonstrated where is coming from (his resume attached to the review helps make that clear) and the untrustworthiness of any review at his hands or others like him. I ought to thank him for making my point.

This self-published book contains nothing that someone well-informed about the tools of historical scholarship, ancient Judaism, and/or the New Testament will be able to take seriously. Evidence that runs counter to Doherty’s predetermined conclusion is dismissed or dealt with unpersuasively, in much the manner that conservative Christian apologists deal with evidence that disagrees with their assumptions. Mythicism is to historical scholarship what young-earth creationism is to biology, and this volume is just one disappointing example of it.”

It’s too bad that Jim did not use his “well-informed” knowledge of the tools of historical scholarship to actually refute the arguments I made throughout the book. What he gave us for the first five chapters was simply laughable. (Paul’s readers already knew everything! was a good example. Talk about your “well-informed knowledge”!) Unfortunately, Amazon readers will assume that he read the entire thing, and that he could show that the totality of all the evidence is indeed “dismissed or dealt with unpersuasively.” (In fact, Amazon allows a thousand words, sometimes more, for a review; too bad he didn’t use some to actually demonstrate what he claims.) Jim ought to be ashamed of his own lack of honesty, but he’s in good company, and none of it ever shows any shame. Regrettably, authors don’t have the opportunity to comment or rebut on Amazon itself.