2011-07-12

Reasons not to doubt the historicity of Jesus raising the daughter of Jairus

by Neil Godfrey

In Chapter 7, I give reasons why there should be no doubt that the whole of this healing narrative [the raising of the daughter of Jairus in Mark 5] is literally true, and that it is dependent ultimately on an eyewitness account by one of the inner circle of the three of the Twelve, who were present throughout, and who accordingly heard and transmitted exactly what Jesus said. (p. 109 of Jesus of Nazareth by Maurice Casey; a footnote here directs the reader to pages 268-69 in that chapter 7.)

Things about Jesus in the Gospels that are “literally true” — that is what this historical Jesus scholar believes he can establish. Not only that, Casey will give reasons why there should be no doubt that we find this healing recorded in the Gospels because of the direct eyewitness testimony of one of Jesus’ own disciples.

The evidence for historicity of the healing of the daughter of Jairus:

“A different kind of evidence for the historicity of healing narratives lies in Aramaic words, believed to be exactly the words which Jesus spoke.” (p. 268)

Casey explains the evidence that he believes establishes historical accuracy of the words used by Jesus in telling the young girl to arise — “Talitha koum” = “Girl, get up”. A grammatical correct form of “koum” should apparently be written with a feminine “i” ending, hence as “koumi”, as many manuscripts have it. But that feminine ending, Casey explains, was not pronounced. Therefore what Mark wrote, “koum”, is “exactly what Jesus said”. (p. 269)

According to Casey, then, these two Aramaic words “take us right back to the Aramaic stage of the tradition.” (p. 269)

Some of us may be wondering why anyone should consider the story true at all, and why we should think that an author who knows how to write an apparently phonetically correct Aramaic phrase should be presumed to be recording a true story. Is there anything more substantial from a biblical scholar to help us have confidence that this story is historically true?

The reason the story depends ultimately on an eyewitness account:

“Jesus took with him into the house only the inner circle of three, Simeon the Rock, and Jacob and John the sons of Zebedee, so one of them is likely to be the ultimate source of the story.” (p. 268)

In the light of the above level of argumentation can someone give me a reason why I should not use words like “fraudulent” and “charlantry” when describing the nature of what passes for “historical Jesus” scholarship among certain biblical scholars?

  • Hjalti
    2011-07-12 10:46:44 UTC - 10:46 | Permalink

    I’ve been reading your blog for some time (don’t know how many years) and I generally trust your summaries because of your summaries of works I’ve already read, but here I just have to assume that you have either overlooked something or misunderstood him.

    Was he perhaps being sarcastic? Was he making fun of NT scholarship?

    • Hjalti
      2011-07-12 10:50:46 UTC - 10:50 | Permalink

      Or did N.T Wright perhaps write chapter seven? :P

    • 2011-07-12 11:19:37 UTC - 11:19 | Permalink

      When I or Steven Carr have quoted the words of Dr Maurice Casey or Dr James Crossley to illustrate their arguments, Casey’s doctoral student has regularly asserted that we are misrepresenting them and quoting out of context. I would very much welcome anyone pointing out to me what I have misunderstood. I do not want to be unfair to Casey or any student who looks to him as a mentor, nor to any other academic who has publicly defended Casey’s scholarly contributions to historical Jesus studies.

      The full context of my selected quotations can be checked online in Google Books. Click on Contents there and navigate to pages 108-9 and then to 268-9.

      • 2011-07-13 08:02:13 UTC - 08:02 | Permalink

        I’m having trouble following the chain of arguments that leads to the claim of authenticity. I thought Casey believed Mark worked from wax tablets that he frequently misread, which “explains” his occasional incorrect word choice, bad grammar, and so on. But now he says: “Talitha koum is exactly what Jesus said.”

        So, what am I supposed to imagine here? Mark is writing from his Aramaic sources and, what? Does he come upon the Aramaic words “talitha koumi” and transliterate them as “talitha koum” in Greek because he knows that Aramaic speakers don’t pronounce the final vowel? I thought he was a clumsy clod who was bad at Greek, Aramaic, and Latin?

        Or has Casey forgotten the wax tablet fantasy in this case, opting instead for a perfect transmission of story via the oral tradition? Or does Mark have a written source of the story in Greek already with the phrase transliterated correctly? Or are we supposed to believe that Mark knew one of the inner circle personally?

        Even if we grant that Mark told a story that contains an Aramaic incantation that’s pronounced correctly, I still can’t follow how this proves beyond a doubt that it came from Jesus. Is this the only possibility? Was Jesus the only person who spoke Aramaic? Why can’t magic healing words like “ephphatha” simply be known as part of the broader tradition of magic men and healers in Palestine?

        I know how to pronounce abracadabra, but that doesn’t mean I knew the guy who first said it.

        • Steven Carr
          2011-07-13 16:01:34 UTC - 16:01 | Permalink

          You have trouble following Casey’s arguments, and trying to put them in a logical format?

          No wonder Casey is misrepresented so often. Nobody can follow his train of thoughts or work out which ad hoc hypothesis is supposed to be active at any one time.

          As far as I can see, Casey thinks that an Aramaic speaker must be reporting tradition if he uses Aramaic words. This makes the Hitler diaries genuine , because they were written in German – the very language that Hitler spoke. They ‘take us right back to the German stage of the tradition.’

          • 2011-07-13 16:26:44 UTC - 16:26 | Permalink

            McGrath, Steph, and the other usual suspects will now invoke Godwin’s Law, and come to the teary defense of Casey.

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    • 2011-07-12 11:53:40 UTC - 11:53 | Permalink

      Oh my goodness! Another biblical scholar has jumped right in to Casey’s defence here demonstrating a generic need for this post. And these people claim to be historians and wear the titles of the intellectual elite! They seem incapable of acknowledging that the emperor they are cheering is stark naked.

      James McGrath insinuates that I reject the possibility that ancient people believed in miracles. Of course I don’t reject that. Duh, I know ancient and modern peoples believe in miracles. So one wonders what he is getting at here.

      And I have posted elsewhere that one would expect any stories about a messiah to include miracles because that’s what people expected of him.

      So perhaps James might like to take another look at what he sees as the “illness” in my post. I don’t at all reject either of the points he infers I reject.

      On the other hand, is he suggesting that the mere facts that peoples believed in miracles and expected a messiah to perform them are themselves grounds for historicity of the Gospels? Of course such beliefs do not make it impossible for stories to have been written about a historical Jesus. But historicity needs more than possibility to underpin it.

      This is the logical fallacy riddling Casey’s works from start to finish. Throughout he treats narrative plausibility as the foundation of historicity.

      • 2011-07-12 12:15:10 UTC - 12:15 | Permalink

        The shame of McGrath’s vendetta is that he refuses to even recognize or acknowledge the arguments expounded by his mainstream colleagues. It is by no means “a mythicist argument” to reject the historicity of the healing of Jairus’s daughter. That rejection is found in the mainstream scholarly literature. His knee-jerk responses have blinded him to the possibility that there really might be something not quite logically or historiographically valid at the heart of much historical Jesus scholarship — quite apart from mythicist arguments altogether. But because such questioning does open the door to the possibility that mythicism might be right it seems necessary for some HJ scholars to cut off their noses to spite their faces.

        • 2011-07-13 16:34:40 UTC - 16:34 | Permalink

          McG: Well, he [Neil] fails to make any distinction between the question of what a historian might say people in the past genuinely believed happened, and what actually happened. He quotes Casey writing about the story being “literally true” without providing Casey’s clarification about in what sense he means this.

          I must not be reading this right. Casey says the raising of Jairus’ daughter is literally true, and Mark wrote down “exactly” what Jesus said, quoted from the actual three closest disciples. Is there some other “sense” in which Casey could say all that but really mean that it’s fiction?

          • Steven Carr
            2011-07-13 16:50:30 UTC - 16:50 | Permalink

            ‘….without providing Casey’s clarification about in what sense he means this.’

            Nor does McGrath..

            This is because Casey doesn’t appear to give any clarification. At least none that I could see. Neil just quoted Casey word for word , which we all know means you are misrepresenting Casey.

            ‘…. the whole of this healing narrative is literally true.’ How can Steph claim any misrepresentation here?

            Yes, the parents really were ‘amazed with great amazement’ (exestesan ekstasei megale), while 2 Kings 4:13 we have ‘amazed with all amazement’ (exestesas… pasan ten ekstasin tauten)

            Elsewhere in the book Casey slams ‘Luke’ for stealing stories from the LXX, while here, Casey conceals from his readers the fact that Casey knows these linguistic similarities between Mark and the LXX.

          • 2011-07-13 17:27:00 UTC - 17:27 | Permalink

            I asked McGrath to tell me where I had misrepresented Casey and in what sense I had misconstrued his words “literally true” but of course he never bothered to answer that or justify his accusation.

            The funny thing is that McGrath and some of his commenters seem all worried about Casey saying Mark’s account is “literally true” on the one hand, but then also concede that the account is ambiguous at the very least about whether it was even a miracle being described. Casey is clear: to him the girl was not dead at all. So he has no problems with the account being “literally true”.

            So why McGrath says Casey is engaging in a bit of hyperbole here (which he is not — Casey makes similar statements repeatedly and is most emphatic about what is “literally true” or “historically true” throughout his book) is beyond me. Casey believes the account is literally true but that it was not a raising from the dead. The girl was in some sort of coma or sleep. What’s the problem?

    • Hjalti
      2011-07-13 00:11:42 UTC - 00:11 | Permalink

      I find it very telling that James seems to think that you are so jawdroppingly stupid that you don’t realize that “rejecting the messianic status of Jesus doesn’t require rejecting the historical conclusion that his followers, or perhaps even Jesus himself, held such beliefs about him.”

      Either James is being dishonest, or he thinks that you’ve got the intelligence of a sock :P

      • 2011-07-13 12:10:36 UTC - 12:10 | Permalink

        Well James has confessed to being completely bamboozled by formal logic, and to my knowledge he has never responded to any comments of others pointing out his oft-repeated informal logical fallacies. He has got himself completely lost in his replies when I have quoted admissions from scholars he respects when they themselves admit to the circularity of their own arguments. Pots and kettles?

  • Steven Carr
    2011-07-12 13:34:05 UTC - 13:34 | Permalink

    To be fair to Casey, he does claim some difficulty in reconstructing the original Aramaic of what Mark translated into Greek.

    Normally Casey has no problems reading Aramaic documents he has never seen, but , being a mere human being, even he sometimes has trouble reading Aramaic documents that no longer exist. Page 268 is one of those rare times.

    Casey claims Mark 1 must be really early, because it was written at a time when Christians knew that if somebody carried something, he could not have done so on the Sabbath, because that was against the Law. (After 70 AD Christians lost that knowledge).

    Hence Mark made clear that the Sabbath was over, because his readers would already know from their background knowledge that the Sabbath must have been over, because otherwise everybody would have been breaking the law.

    Yes, in Casey’s world, ‘everyone took this so much for granted’ that Mark had to spell it out for them in great detail that the Law had not been broken.

    Perhaps a modern analogy will spell out the scholarship Maurice has put into this reasoning.

    In Casey’s world, if I make ‘a careful note’ that Casey drove on the left-hand side of the road, then I must be writing for people who are careful to obey the law about driving on the correct side of the road, and always need to know if somebody drove on the correct side of the road when they read about a car journey.

    If I omit a statement about which side of the road a car was travelling on, when describing a car journey, then , in Casey’s world, I must be writing for people for whom driving on the correct side of the road is no longer an issue for them.

    But Casey has greater surprises in store for us.

    As well as being an expert on reading Aramaic documents he has not seen, he is also an expert on curing cataracts. Apparently, you can cure blind people quite easily. (See page 270 for details)

    One thing you can do is spit on their eyes. Saliva removes dirt and dried secretions.

    Washing your face is certainly something a blind person can try. Make sure your hands are clean before washing your face though , or there is a danger that you might just be adding to the dirt and dried secretions on your eyelids.

    • 2011-07-12 14:53:05 UTC - 14:53 | Permalink

      I can already hear a student of Casey’s screaming that you are being totally ridiculous in your analogy because they did not have cars in those days so the analogy does not work! (Pharisees converting the unsuspecting and making them a child fit for hell twice as much as they.)

      I do encourage sceptics (those who don’t believe biblical scholars really do seriously consider arguments like this) to see for themselves Casey’s words on page 270 at Google Books lest they think Stephen Carr is misrepresenting anything.

      Casey on that page is even able to slightly correct the text as we have it to “take account of the original Aramaic” that he just knows existed.

      “Jesus’ use of saliva will have encouraged the man, who will have heard and felt Jesus’ spitting in his eyes, and who will also have been aware of the healing properties ascribed to saliva. The saliva will also have removed dirt and dried secretions from the eyelids. The pressure of Jesus’ fingers on the eyes caused the displacement of the lens into the vitreous chamber of the eye. [Ouch!] This is why the man saw men as large as trees, and suffered blurred vision. He remembered what men and trees looked like, because they were familiar sights before he suffered from cataracts.

      “The next stage of healing followed . . . . Keir Howard explains that he will have been someone whose ‘eyes are excessive in length and excessively distendable. The vitreous body is extremely fluid and the cataracts are eminently couchable. Further, traditional healers are often able to recognize those sufferers who will benefit most from their ministrations. After the cataract has been removed, such people tend to see much more sharply and clearly than the normal cataract patient.’”

      This reminds me of that party game Chinese Whispers. A short text is there at the start, but by the time it goes the rounds of a few scholars the story becomes completely unrecognizable in comparison with its start.

      It also reminds me of Thomas L. Thompson’s adage: paraphrased he says something like, “Removing the miraculous does not save the stories, it only destroys the stories.”

      • Steven Carr
        2011-07-12 19:17:13 UTC - 19:17 | Permalink

        How much is the University of Nottingham going to charge students for this kind of scholarship?

        From 2012, you will have to pay 9000 pounds to be able to claim that your Professor is the renowned Maurice Casey.

        Save your money.

    • KevinC
      2011-07-13 13:01:56 UTC - 13:01 | Permalink

      Casey claims Mark 1 must be really early, because it was written at a time when Christians knew that if somebody carried something, he could not have done so on the Sabbath, because that was against the Law. (After 70 AD Christians lost that knowledge).

      Hence Mark made clear that the Sabbath was over, because his readers would already know from their background knowledge that the Sabbath must have been over, because otherwise everybody would have been breaking the law.

      But…wouldn’t this laborious spelling-out of Sabbath technicalities prove that Mark 1 was late, because it was spelled out? We “know” that the Epistle writers and their audiences had extensive and accurate knowledge of HJ traditions because the writers never (or at best, rarely) make any reference to them. It was all taken “as read.” Right? So on that premise, the emphasis on the Sabbath being over would have been necessary because Mark’s audience wouldn’t have those details as background knowledge, thus they must have been Gentiles, after 70 CE. Or is there a magic decoder ring I’m unaware of?

  • Steven Carr
    2011-07-12 13:38:34 UTC - 13:38 | Permalink

    Paul in 1 Corinthians 1 slams Jews for demanding miracle stories.

    Those are the words of somebody who does not know any miracle stories about Jesus.

    If Jesus had existed, why would his earliest followers have scoffed at the idea that they were expected to have stories of the miraculous to tell about him?

  • Steven Carr
    2011-07-12 14:40:01 UTC - 14:40 | Permalink

    ‘Jesus took with him into the house only the inner circle of three, Simeon the Rock, and Jacob and John the sons of Zebedee, so one of them is likely to be the ultimate source of the story.” ‘

    Strange. I thought it was Matthew who made all these contemporaneous notes on wax tablets that Mark translated so badly, but which Casey can reconstruct , almost as though he had seen one.

  • 2011-07-12 15:07:19 UTC - 15:07 | Permalink

    The story about the healing of Jairus’s twelve-year-old daughter is interrupted in its middle by another story about the healing of a woman who had suffered heavy bleeding for twelve years. This pair of stories follows immediately after the story about Jesus visiting Gerasene, where he cast some demons out of a demented man into a herd of swine, which then ran off a cliff.

    I speculate that the bleeding woman was Mary Magdalene and that she had followed Jesus from Gerasene. I speculate that an elaborate, coherent story about Mary Magdalene has been lost, leaving only a few fragments in the four gospels.

    The Gerasene story takes place on the east side of the Sea of Galilee, within the Greek cultural sphere of the Decapolis. There is some evidence that a place called Magda (hometown of Mary Magdalene) was located at or near Gerasene (aka Gadarenes, Gergesa, Gergasa).

    Mary Magdalene herself was possessed by seven demons, so she had reason to hang around with a man who was possessed by demons. When Jesus cast the man’s demons into the swine, then some of Mary’s own demons likewise might have been cast into the same swine. After the swine ran off a cliff and drowned in the Sea of Galilee, then Jesus got into a boat and sailed across the Sea of Galilee, and so Mary’s remaining demons might have compelled her likewise to cross the Sea of Galilee in order to encounter Jesus again.

    Crazy Mary then interrupted the Jairus story. This interruption involves some symbolic numbers. Mary has been suffering from heavy bleeding for twelve years, and Jairus’s daughter is twelve years old. Maybe Mary had been possessed by twelve demons, but five had been cast into the swine, and so seven remained. I’ll mention here also that there are twelve months in a year.

    Anyway, the idea that some woman had been bleeding heavily for twelve years, and then she touched Jesus’ garment and knew immediately that the bleeding had stopped — this idea is just crazy. The woman was crazy, and that description fits Mary Magdalene.

    I speculate that the original, elaborate, coherent story about Mary Magdalene provided more links between her and Jairus and his daughter. Maybe they all were related in one family.

    Anyway, the ancient Greeks celebrated an annual festival called Thesmophoria in mid-October. This festival commemorated a mythical story in which the God Pluto abducted the Goddess Persephone (aka Kore) down into the underworld. During this abduction, a swineherd named Eubouleus happened to be herding some swine nearby, and those swine fell down into the same crevice that Pluton used as his route to take Persephone down into the underworld.

    In the Thesmophoria festival, a group of women would take a dead pig down into a crevice. They would leave the dead pig at the crevice bottom, and then pick up the rotten carcass of last year’s pig and take that rotten carcass back up to the earth’s surface. There, the women would tear up the carcass and mix it with grain and burn the mixture in a fertility ritual.

    I speculate that Mary Magdalene was a Greek-culture woman who had gone through this Thesmophoria festival several times and therefore had become deranged and had developed an overwhelming delusion about her menstrual bleeding and about pigs falling into crevices and rotting for an entire year and about the year-long-rotted pigs becoming involved in her own fertility.

    • 2011-07-14 22:21:17 UTC - 22:21 | Permalink

      For more information about Magdala being located on the south-east shore of the Sea of Galilee, see the webpage
      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09523a*dot*htm,
      which says:

      [quote]

      The Talmud distinguishes between two Magdalas only. One was in the east, on the Yarmuk near Gadara (in the Middle Ages Jadar, now Mukes), thus acquiring the name of Magdala Gadar; as a much frequented watering place it was called Magdala Çeba ‘ayya (now El-Hammi, about two hours’ journey from the southern end of the lake to the east, near a railway station, Haifa-Dera‘a).

      [unquote]

      Another element of the Gerasene demonaic story (immediately before the Jairus story) that might be linked to Mary Magdalene is that the Gerasene demoniac spent most of his time hanging around tombs (Mark 5:5). This Gerasene demoniac story thus foreshadows the story of Mary Magdalene visiting the tomb where Jesus had been buried.

      Thus, Mary Magdalene was with the demoniac hanging around tombs in Gerasene. After Jesus cast out the spirits from the demoniac into the swine (perhaps likewise with some spirits from Mary) and the swine jumped into the Sea of Galilee, then Mary Magdalene followed Jesus and his disciples to the west shore of the Sea of Galilee, where (in the middle of the Jairus story) she touched Jesus’ garment in order to stop her menstrual bleeding, which supposedly had lasted twelve years.

      Another point I would like to make is that the Magdala Gadar that was located on the south-east shore of the Sea of Galilee is now called Umm Qais. The Wikipedia article about Umm Qais
      en*dot*wikipedia.org/wiki/Umm_Qais
      remarks that Umm Quis is famous for its ancient tombs:

      [quote]

      The current and most widely-used name, Umm Qais, is Arabic for “Mother of Qais,” a modified pronunciation and spelling of the Roman name Caius. The ancient name Gadara appears to be Semitic. It is probably derived from the Hebrew gader (גדר), meaning “fence” or “border”. It is still heard in Jedūr, which is associated with the ancient rock tombs, with sarcophagi, to the east of the present ruins. These tombs are closed by carved stone doors, and are used as storehouses for grain, and also as dwellings by the inhabitants. The place is not mentioned till later times.

      [unquote]

  • telson
    2011-07-12 20:12:43 UTC - 20:12 | Permalink

    When we begin to examine the gospels and the letters of the New Testament, we find that Jesus appears as the central figure in them. The four gospels tell us about His life here on earth while the epistles describe the meaning of His death and resurrection according to Christian belief. We can actually say, that if He hadn’t lived on earth, none of these would have been written.
    As we examine the historicity of Jesus, we can find proof of His life on earth. This proof has been preserved by His successors, such as the early church fathers, and also His opponents. Both sources refer to various parts of His life.

    http://www.jariiivanainen.net/historicityofJesus.html

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  • beallen0417
    2011-07-13 04:08:17 UTC - 04:08 | Permalink

    This really is sort of absurd. Casey of course disagrees with “The American Jesus Seminar” and thinks that there is much more historicity to Mark than the ten “Acts” that the American Jesus Seminar (not, of course, the well known British Jesus Seminar henceforth referred to as BJS). Evidently, Stephanie Fisher, who is credited with having worked meticulously through “every word” of more than one draft of Casey’s Jesus of Nazareth also feels that this story of a resurrection is literally true.

    Wow.

    So I present to any interested reader this question: What other non-Biblical resurrection narrative from antiquity can be regarded as historical?

  • 2011-07-13 05:36:20 UTC - 05:36 | Permalink

    “Evidently, Stephanie Fisher, who is credited with having worked meticulously through “every word” of more than one draft of Casey’s Jesus of Nazareth also feels that this story of a resurrection is literally true.” … this is hilarious. Typical.

  • 2011-07-13 12:06:43 UTC - 12:06 | Permalink

    James McGrath took me to task on his blog for demonstrating an anti-scholarly disdain in my comments and never offering an alternative to current historical Jesus methods. I pointed out to him that my post he was attacking was not even a mythicist argument but the sort of standard view one finds in almost any liberal-leaning mainstream biblical scholarly commentary. He justifies his attack on the views of his own colleagues because they are posted by one he has branded a “mythicist”. Ironically James has also complained bitterly in the past because I have never made any attempt at a comprehensive case for mythicism. So I guess when I post mainstream scholarly arguments he has to attack them instead! I responded to James with the following comment:

    McGrath, your obsession with mythicism is distorting your ability to read what I post. I probably post about one in ten or even fewer posts on mythicism, and out of 200 responses to a poll it appears only a minority of readers of my blog are mythicists, and you surely are aware of my own repeated posts explaining exactly what my blog is about and what my motives and interests are.

    It is you who have complained in the past that I have not presented a complete or cogent case for mythicism and have ridiculed my explanations for why I don’t despite my repeated explanations that that is not where I am at. Are you so desperate for someone to attack that you are determined to see giants in windmills?

    Yes I do defend Doherty and others when I see their arguments have been distorted. But I do not have to agree with Doherty myself on everything to do that.

    Yes, posts in which I do address mythicism do seem to attract your attention more than others, and some people do seem to refer to them a lot.

    But if you opened your eyes a little you would also see that there are many people who also link to and draw attention to other posts, too, most of which do not relate to mythicism.

    Yes, I do sometimes point out where a certain non-mythicist argument can have implications for mythicism. But I always make it clear in such cases if the original author is not a mythicist. And I also make clear my interest in understanding and sharing the more general arguments of biblical scholarship from a rationalist-liberal-secular perspective.

    It is you and a few others of your cheer squad who have chosen to see mythicism in everything I write though it is not my interest in many posts at all.

    Look at my categories and see how many authors (mostly biblical scholars) I have discussed and you will see relatively few relating to mythicism.

    I do favour mythicism and do not resile from that. But it is a conclusion I come to and address occasionally as a result of studying other aspects of biblical studies.

    But you are just being silly when you attack posts of mine even when they merely discuss what your own biblical scholarship publishes! You are letting your obsession show.

    As for being anti-scholarly and not offering an alternative methodology, again you are just talking nonsense. You know very well — you have attacked the relevant posts or chosen to ignore them though I have directed you to them many times — that I argue very clearly for a methodical scholarly alternative — the same one used by mainstream historians, including a significant number of Old Testament historians.

    You are not a historian and you are being pretentious to say you are. You have demonstrated repeatedly your ignorance of the way historical studies are conducted in nonbiblical fields and have no idea about the philosophy of history as it has evolved and is discussed today. Your attempts to discuss Hobsbawm have only embarrassed you in the eyes of anyone who has read Hobsbawm, or at least who has read beyond the first edition of his book on bandits.

    Most theologians are not historians and only say they are. The methods many of your colleagues use are invalid or fallacious according to the scholars within your own discipline. And Casey’s special pleading is only one example of the embarrassments your field produces. But you are hardly in a position to argue otherwise since you have even demonstrated repeatedly your inability to handle arguments based on formal logic, and have repeatedly fallen into basic traps of informal logical fallacies, as has been pointed out to you repeatedly. By your own admission formal logic is a mystery to you.

    I suggest you continue to read my blog, especially those on historical method. Those posts are not about mythicism. They are about a constructive alternative to the undiscipline and fallacies that underpin current historical Jesus scholarship. If valid methods that are consistent with the methods of history practiced beyond your enclave of biblical studies open the door to mythicism, then you need to have the courage to face up to that if you are intellectually honest.

  • 2011-07-14 02:35:55 UTC - 02:35 | Permalink

    I would like McGrath to ask one of his friends in the history department what they would say to a PhD candidate who wrote “there should be no doubt” about something so speculative. Would they consider that to be harmless hyperbole or an indication that the candidate really didn’t grasp the distinction between “possible” and “probable”? Isn’t that exactly the problem for which McGrath so frequently criticizes mythicists?

    • Steven Carr
      2011-07-14 03:22:03 UTC - 03:22 | Permalink

      On page 262, Casey also has ‘no doubt’ that Jesus cured a paralyzed man. What PhD student at the University of Nottingham would ever get away with such a statement?

      On page 263, Casey reveals how this could be done.Jesus told the man to stretch out his arm,as it seems the man had never thought of doing that.

      So the man stretched out his arm and brought it back again, so using the muscles in the way nature intended. Result – cure of one paralyzed man,with plenty of time left over for a little prayer if needed.

      Medicine can be so simple sometimes. I bet the paralyzed man was kicking himself for not thinking of stretching his arm before Jesus arrived (assuming he ever thought of stretching his legs far enough to kick himself)

      Mind you , even Casey can see there are parallels to a story in the LXX about Jeroboam.

      Later in the book, Casey trashes Luke for having a miracle story that has obvious parallels to stories in the LXX, but of,course, Casey would not be Casey if he had a logical , consistent methodology.

  • 2011-07-14 19:29:04 UTC - 19:29 | Permalink

    Steph is not interested in raising her objections on this blog of course, especially after I banned her for trolling some time ago. But she does continue to fret over what has been written here and I quote one of her uncomprehending responses here. It is from http://rjosephhoffmann.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/%CF%80-ness-envy-the-irrelevance-of-bayess-theorem/#comment-3588

    She fails to see that she is only digging the pit deeper for herself and Casey with her justifications relating to the medical expertise of Casey’s source. Circular reasoning, begging the question, special pleading, — it seems few biblical scholars have any idea what these mean. Comprehending the arguments expressed here is beyond her capacity, evidently. Meanwhile, she can say that the reason I don’t believe Mark’s story is history is because I once believed in different kinds of miracles myself! And on it goes. Trying to reason with Steph is like Alice trying to get sense out of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Oh, and Hoffmann echoes his vacuous approval, too, just as Steph pronounces her declaration of agreement with his every word before contradicting his words in subsequent comments. The future of biblical studies looks as dark as it has always been.

    Steph writes:

    Dizzy misrepresentations and laughable things continue over on Vridar including a comment at the bottom of one funny post: “Evidently, Stephanie Fisher, who is credited with having worked meticulously through “every word” of more than one draft of Casey’s Jesus of Nazareth also feels that this story of a resurrection is literally true.” Of Jairus’s daughter? Really? I do not, and anyway Casey follows Mark’s report that Jesus said she was not dead, rather than the fundamentalist tradition that she was.

    Godfrey again refers to Casey as my mentor, which he is not, as I have pointed out before but Godfrey can’t actually comprehend that I disagree with Casey on minor as well as quite major points all the time. What I do though, is represent Casey’s work accurately (which does not mean I endorse it) and correct those who misrepresent it, like Godfrey and Carr, which they do all the time possibly because they don’t understand it. Godfrey says he can hear me “screaming” – funny that because I don’t scream … but I do sing. I hope he wasn’t insulting my singing… He suggests I am “emotionally unstable” which I’m not so perhaps he’s got a bit of psychological projection going on, because he does make so many many more personal attacks.

    Godfrey and Carr misrepresent so many things that it would be dull to enumerate them all. For example, Casey’s comments on the healing of the blind man in Bethsaida are dependent on the work of Keir Howard, whom Carr just manages to mention. He does not however note that when Keir Howard wrote this book, he was a fully qualified medic, experienced in the healing of psychosomatic illnesses and competent in the anthropology of medicine, and that his comments were partly based on the work of professional ophthalmologists, a quite different world from that of the miracles which Godfrey and apparently Carr used to believe in, and on account of which they will no longer believe stories which are perfectly plausible as natural events in the real world.

    Carr’s comments that students paying £9,000 to study at Nottingham will have Casey as their professor are incompetent and misleading as usual. The New Testament professors are Roland Deines and Richard Bell. Emeritus Professor Maurice Casey retired several years ago. That is why he is ‘Emeritus’. It’s a shame that Godfrey, who is a librarian, and Carr have such little respect for integrity and truth.

    I can understand one biblical scholar being incapable of engaging in a reasonable discussion, but what hope is there when that one biblical scholar experiences no guidance or correction from peers, and where peers who speak at all only encourage and fan outright incompetence.

    • Steven Carr
      2011-07-15 04:32:28 UTC - 04:32 | Permalink

      STEPH
      Carr’s comments that students paying £9,000 to study at Nottingham will have Casey as their professor are incompetent and misleading as usual.

      CARR
      Steph is right. The University of Nottingham inform me that ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ is not on their recommended reading list for undergraduates. Students at the University of Nottingham will have to get their cutting-edge scholarship from sources other than the University of Nottingham’s Emeritus Professor.

  • 2011-07-15 06:09:08 UTC - 06:09 | Permalink

    Steven, I see you’re being taken to task for not understanding the argument from silence. If I’m following Steph correctly, here’s your problem:

    1. Doherty says it’s remarkable that in his epistles Paul never mentions Jesus’ teaching, healings, exorcisms, etc. The roaring silence indicates more than a lack of interest, but implies that he knew nothing of them, because they didn’t really happen.

    2. Casey says it’s remarkable that after the resurrection story, John never mentions Lazarus again. The Synoptic authors, of course, are totally silent on the matter. He writes, “He does not turn up in Acts, and he neither wrote nor figures in any epistle for the same reason.” The roaring silence indicates more than a lack of interest, but implies that they knew nothing of Lazarus, and his resurrection didn’t really happen. Casey concludes: “What we can actually demonstrate is that the story in its present form is not literally true…”

    Clearly, you can see that the second example is not an argument from silence, where the first example is, because respected scholars don’t argue from silence.

  • beallen0417
    2011-07-15 07:27:58 UTC - 07:27 | Permalink

    Is it just me, or has the QFTHJ come full circle and we are back to Reimarus? He thought the gospels were histories, except for the miracles, which couldn’t have happened, so he explained them away within the context of the stories themselves. Strauss thought him silly for not regarding the stories themselves as myth, Bauer thought Strauss didn’t recognize the mythical character went down to the core of the stories and so it went until you got to Bultmann who asserted Jesus was historical but that nothing could be known about him because it was hidden behind the kerygmatic nature of the gospels. Now, less than 100 years after Bultmann we have Maurice Casey doing the same thing Reimarus did.

  • 2011-07-15 08:10:46 UTC - 08:10 | Permalink

    What I find “interesting” is that there is simply no interest in mainstream scholars having any dialogue with those who question their foundations seriously, and not simply as a meaningless academic hypothetical. McGrath, Steph, Hoffmann, West, Casey, Crossley, and others rarely if ever engage with criticisms. Generally they only latch on to some extraneous rhetorical point and make fun of that, or simply ignore whatever is said against their methods and continue to repeat, like politicians or Murdoch journalists, their own spin on what they want others to think the criticism are. It’s all done with insult and ridicule, too, of course.

    They are simply not interested in a serious discussion. (They remind me of creationists scoffing at evolutionists, to be frank. And no wonder. It was the scientific disciplines that left them historically. They have never caught up — only “put on” a few of the trappings of other disciplines like Paul said to “put on the new man”, so it’s all a “put on” — and some have the vanity to think they are now the leaders in historiography!)

    • beallen0417
      2011-07-15 13:13:53 UTC - 13:13 | Permalink

      Yes, you would think that at the very least a scholar recording a resurrection story as “literally true” in any sense of the word, much less making it eyewitness level down to the script spoken would trigger red flags in someone reading it. You would also hope it would make them question whether they really wanted to jump in on that side of a dialogue

  • 2011-07-15 08:17:37 UTC - 08:17 | Permalink

    I had contemplated doing a post titled: A Nazi, a Moonie and a biblical scholar walked into a bar . . . .

    But I am still trying to word it so it comes out as a joke, but I’m beginning to see that jokes require ironical twists between reality and unreality, not literal reality through and through.

    The idea was based on the way all three have always allowed members of their groups to question their teachings and methods so long as they all do so in a manner that respects the rationale for the establishment and doesn’t ask in a way that threatens the status quo. All three can boast of allowing freedom of expression on these terms.

  • Steven Carr
    2011-07-15 14:39:36 UTC - 14:39 | Permalink

    Steph informs us that the reason why the University of Nottingham does not have Professor Casey’s book on their recommended reading list as that this book was published in 2010, and so is too new.

    I guess if you pay 9000 a year for tuition, Steph will explain that you won’t be recommended to read the latest research , no matter how superb it is.

    Pity. They will miss valuable tips on how to heal blind people by spitting in their eyes, which will help to clean them , and how to heal paralysed people by telling them to stretch their arms.

    Casey’s Aramaic gets slaughtered in this review http://www.tyndalehouse.com/tynbul/library/TynBull_2003_54_1_08_Head_QReview.pdf

    Don’t these people know Casey is the self-proclaimed world expert on reconstructing the Aramaic of Greek translations?

    If only Casey could point to a document he successfully translated from Greek into Aramaic. I have never known an expert who has never done what he claims to be the world’s leading expert in doing, but Maurice Casey is an expert in doing something it appears he has never ever done – translating Greek documents back into their original Aramaic.

  • Pingback: The Jesus Process: Stephanie Louise Fisher « The New Oxonian

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