2012-02-05

Hypocritical Christ-mythers: Cameron’s response to Neil Godfrey at Vridar — & my response back

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by Neil Godfrey

Русский: Григорий Распутин . English: Grigorij...

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Cameron, a critic of Dave Fitzgerald’s Nailed, has responded to my remarks (Are Mythicist Sceptics Hypocritical for Attacking Creationists) about his accusation that those who reject the historicity of Jesus are hypocritical if they also criticize Creationists for rejecting an academic consensus. As seems to be par for the course with these sorts of attacks, derisive labels and character attacks are deployed against anyone who argues that Jesus was not a historical figure. Hence the generic title of his response: Hypocritical Christ-mythers.

Cameron begins his response thus:

In my review of David Fitzgerald’s book Nailed, I criticized Christ-mythers for ignoring the consensus of biblical scholars on the historical Jesus, while simultaneously attacking creationists for rejecting the consensus of scientists on evolution. Fitzgerald didn’t like the comparison, and neither did Neil Godfrey over at Vridar. But he’s wrong for the same reasons Fitzgerald is. His comments are in quotes, followed by my responses.

“Of course there is one professor who asserts that to the extent that biblical studies does have a degree of certainty (even though only a fraction of anything in the sciences), to that extent mythicists should respectfully submit to this consensus just as creationists should be rational and accept the authority of scientists. That one discipline is the foundation of all our modern progress and the other is a Mickey Mouse course doesn’t matter. What matters is that the most honourable professors in each have certainties. One just happens to have greater certainties than the other, that’s all.”

Of course there’s a degree of uncertainty involved when investigating historical figures, but to call biblical history a “Mickey Mouse course” is to reach a new level of special pleading. People like Godfrey make the entire field sound like a collection crazy, right-wing evangelicals bent on defending their worldview. The truth is that these scholars, whatever their ideological commitments may be, are interested in the truth. That most of them (even those skeptical of Christianity) have rejected the Christ-myth speaks volumes about its lack of validity. Furthermore, if mythicists are aware of the limitations of history, though they exaggerate them, don’t you think historians areas well? Yeah…they are. But somehow the experts rarely throw up their hands and exclaim, “well we weren’t there; Jesus probably wasn’t real!”

Whatever their ideological commitments?

Cameron portrays theologians who study “the historical Jesus” as reasonable enough to set aside their ideological commitments in order to objectively seek out only “the truth” of the matter. This is a naive Pollyannish portrayal of a scholarly field dominated by faith-committed theologians. Let’s break down Cameron’s comment and examine each piece.

Biblical studies is probably the most ideologically oriented of all academic disciplines. Hector Avalos has shown that clearly enough in The End of Biblical Studies. R. Joseph Hoffmann remarked on this blog that the reason the Christ myth theory is not given more attention among scholars has more to do with conditions of academic appointments than common sense. Stevan Davies recently pointed out that a list of the Westar Institute Fellows shows nearly all are or have been affiliated with seminaries and theological institutions. Most of the scholarly books one picks up on the historical Jesus contain prefaces or concluding chapters in which one reads reflections that sound more like homilies or spiritual confessions. James Crossley has publicly denounced the way biblical scholars so regularly open their academic get-togethers (seminars, workshops) with prayers. Blogs of theologian scholars are dominated by spiritual reflections and sayings. Atheists and atheism are generally derided. Ideology is important. The Christian faith dominates the entire field of biblical studies. To suggest that these scholars are all committed to setting aside their personal faith and seeking truth regardless of where it may lead sounds about as plausible as expecting Nazi era scientists to set aside their political ideology in order to study the biological grounds for racial differences.

That most of such scholars have rejected a model that undermines the entire ideological and faith foundations of this scholarly field tells us absolutely nothing about its lack of validity.

Historians or theologians?

Cameron speaks of historians. But the vast majority of biblical scholars specializing in the New Testament, in particular Christian origins or the historical Jesus, are not trained historians but theologians. The lack of awareness and understanding among these theologians of the nature and practice of history as it is understood among “real” history faculties is sometimes addressed by a few of these theologians themselves. Scot McKnight is one who has written relatively extensively on the failure of most theologians to even know the names of prominent historians (von Ranke, Collingwood, Carr, Elton, White) who have milestone works that have moved the directions in which historians seek to apply their art and craft. Crossley is another who frequently attempts to address the nature of historiography. But these voices are needles in the vast haystack. My own personal correspondences with a few theologians has only strengthened my belief that ignorance of historiography and the most fundamental principles of how to analyse documents for data and information is simply lacking among even those who call themselves historical Jesus scholars. Old Testament scholars are not so behind as these NT ones. At least in the study of ancient Israel we now see “minimalists” and others influenced by them (and some who have influenced the minimalists) introducing standard historiographical practices into that area. The idea that an unprovenanced narrative, without external controls for verification, is simply a narrative and that it cannot be assumed to be historical without circular reasoning is beginning to dawn on more and more in OT studies. There are a few in NT studies who understand this principle, such as Jim West and Dale C. Allison, but who have yet to actually apply this principle to the existence of Jesus himself.

Recently one theologian who teaches an undergraduate historical Jesus class recommended to me two works on historiographical methods. When I quoted back to him key sections that contradicted the most fundamental processes of historical Jesus scholars he was enraged. I was misrepresenting them. It turned out that he was the one who had simply failed to grasp the clear, black and white points that these texts made about the need for establishing provenance and external controls — and that as a consequence the whole historical Jesus model of these scholars rests on circularity and mere assumption that there was a historical Jesus to study at all. This pitfall does not face the historical studies in other areas of history simply because historians have long established their foundations with documentary resources that are grounded in the stability of known provenance and external controls.

This was not the only scholar to react like this. Others have likewise simply walked away indignantly when it is suggested that there is no validity to simply assuming a text’s self-witness to be true without some means of control to test this. I have read this warning being published by a biblical scholar as far back as 1904 but it seems most New Testament scholars today simply don’t get it.

Furthermore, I agree that science deserves a lot of credit for making this world a better place. That, however, doesn’t address why we should accept biological evolution but establish special criteria for affirming the existence Jesus. Science could generally be a reliable method for studying nature and also mislead us about our origins as a species. After all, that’s precisely what Christ-mythers argue about history: it has told us a lot about the past, but historians are wrong about Jesus. So again, it’s just special pleading on a grand scale.

“Of course the reality is that evolution and the sciences have gained their authority by their public demonstrations of their proofs. In the case of evolution people are persuaded by the evidence the scientists can and regularly do present to them. Few people are truly impressed by appeals to authority. (Though obviously God-fearers must be so impressed…”

Mine is not a blind appeal to authority, however. The relevant question that ought to be asked is why the experts on Jesus have reached the position they now hold. My humble suggestion is that it’s because of the evidence they have dedicated their careers to analyzing. Again, it’s not just “God-fearers” we’re talking about. Many biblical scholars today aren’t Christians; however, they still share the view that Jesus walked the earth.

By the way, I don’t make this argument about consensus without considering the data. I didn’t say, and no apologist I know of says, that the argument is settled solely because of the consensus view. But majority scholarship is certainly a good place to start the investigation. And that’s a better course than ignoring the experts because they “…have nothing but circularity and assumptions to fall back on…” as Godfrey put it.

Cameron here has misread or overlooked what I wrote. I did not say we accept evolution because scientists have given us a lot of material progress.

Why we accept evolution yet why we move on from the historical Jesus

We accept evolution today because scientists have been able to give us clear public demonstrations of its proofs. That is the critical point. Scientists make available all the proofs we could ask for. If we have questions we can find them answered simply and directly and unequivocally.

Historical Jesus scholars do not act like that at all. Very much the opposite. One reason probably quite a few of us ever came to embrace mythicism was indirectly through the defensive and offended responses of historical Jesus scholars themselves. Many such scholars simply do not know what the mythicist arguments are, or only have a poor superficial idea of some of them, so they fail to give adequate responses to those who come to them with questions after reading works like those of Doherty, Price, Wells, Ellegard, Zindler, and others. That would not be so bad. The problem starts when the inquirer finds the mythicist has already addressed the pat answers of the theologians and challenges them. That’s when the theologians very often show they have nothing more to offer, and some will attempt to try to hide this by an unfortunate display of hostility or ridicule.

Cameron notes — as many theologians in this discussion like to do — that not all scholars of the historical Jesus are Christians. It is quaint the way this is sometimes so emphasized that one might almost think they are trying to suggest the discipline is an even mix of atheists, agnostics and believers. But of course the atheists are a small minority in a field overwhelmingly dominated by the faithful. Moreover, whenever one does begin to try to get to know some of those atheists or agnostics, one before long discovers a good portion of them have nonetheless had, let’s say, checkered religious backgrounds. But that said, it is also a simple fact that Jesus does not belong exclusively to the devout believers or spiritually inclined. He is a central cultural icon for many through many of our cultural institutions and practices.

No, the reminder that “many” biblical scholars “aren’t Christians” just doesn’t really wash away the fact that the field is dominated by believers of various shades and largely supported by communities and institutions with vested interests in the status quo.

I agree with Cameron that “majority scholarship is certainly a good place to start the investigation”. It’s where I started mine. I was for many years a Christian. Then for many years an atheist — and the idea that Jesus was a historical figure never worried me in the slightest. I still enjoyed studying books about the historical Jesus. But I did not stop there. The more widely I studied the more I came to see the cracks in the whole historical Jesus position. And unfortunately the more I came to see how the theologians had precious little to plaster those cracks apart from ridicule, insult and indignation.

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  • Steven Carr
    2012-02-05 17:51:17 UTC - 17:51 | Permalink

    ‘People like Godfrey make the entire field sound like a collection crazy, right-wing evangelicals bent on defending their worldview. ‘

    If in doubt, distort your opponents views. Never tell your readers what they actually say.

    Neil points out time and time again that people retro-engineering the historical Jesus from the anonymous Gospels do not apply external controls to determine facts before they draw conclusions from said facts.

    But it would really spoil the tone of the piece if Cameron was forced by reality to address the actual points Neil makes.

    Reality is not an area that Cameron wants to go near.

    Much better to choose a fantasy world where mythicists make nice, easily-refutable arguments. Cameron likes that world!

  • Steven Carr
    2012-02-05 18:08:03 UTC - 18:08 | Permalink

    Cameron also knows full well that quests for the Historical Jesus have crashed and burned so badly for over a century that the failed quests are now numbered, and people write books documenting the failures of quests for the historical Jesus.

    Cameron also knows full well that the techniques of Biblical scholars can’t even tell us whether or not Q existed.

    So don’t write posts explaining that these people are experts and we should trust their years of research into the evidence.

    When their research has failed so badly, people now openly talk about abandoning various quests for the historical Jesus.

    http://ntweblog.blogspot.com/2007/04/abandoning-third-quest-of-historical.html

  • Steven Carr
    2012-02-05 18:14:07 UTC - 18:14 | Permalink

    Mark Goodacre talks about mainstream Biblical scholarship ignoring theories they do not like and often airbrushing them out of ‘scholarly’ works.

    http://ntweblog.blogspot.com/2012/02/what-is-trouble-with-q.html

    Perhaps Mark Goodacre is also one of those hypocrites Cameron talks about.

    • Steven Carr
      2012-02-06 17:52:23 UTC - 17:52 | Permalink

      I see GDon just ignores complaints by mainstream New Testament scholars themselves that unpopular theories are just ignored by the ‘consensus’ and sometimes airbrushed from history in supposedly ‘scholarly’ works.

  • nemo
    2012-02-05 23:12:13 UTC - 23:12 | Permalink

    it’s so easy, no historical Jesus then no support for modern Israel

    support for Israel is build upon this grand delusion, if Jesus is myth then the Jews are absolutely irrelevant, this is why this mythical nonsense must exist and must be supported.

    Historians are nothing more than ruler’s best servants

    • 2012-02-06 09:55:18 UTC - 09:55 | Permalink

      Not only historians (nor all historians, fortunately — e.g. Alex Carey, Howard Zinn) but public intellectuals by and large, as first pointed out by Julien Benda (The Betrayal of the Intellectuals).

      But in the case of Israel U.S. support swung to its side after it proved itself a strong potential asset in the Middle East with their 1967 victory. (Before then the U.S. was quite prepared to oppose Israel as in the 1956 war.) Geo-politics still lies at the base of U.S. support in its efforts to bring outstanding independent states in the region into economic and political compliance with Western interests.

      What would change, though, would be the domestic politics and the ability of the public to see more clearly what is really at stake.

      • nemo
        2012-02-07 23:55:19 UTC - 23:55 | Permalink

        thank you for your reply, i agree, i’m not native English speaker, i can understand written text but my writing English is horrible, so my reply is short, but i thing you’re great man you’re on good path, even if wrong, because if gods exist and if salvation is true (i’m agnostic) then the gods honor bold people and not blind slaves to any authority which actually rules, this is why Judaism and Christianity is wrong it requires to blindly obeying authority.

  • 2012-02-06 01:40:56 UTC - 01:40 | Permalink

    Thanks for responding, Neil. I’ll write something in the next few days.

  • ROO BOOKAROO
    2012-02-06 03:17:05 UTC - 03:17 | Permalink

    “Historians are nothing more than ruler’s best servants”.
    This is just another convoluted way to express the common wisdom “history is always written by the winners,” to be understood as the winning powers.

    This is nothing more than the an adaptation of Hegel’s view that the “owl of Minerva” (the emblem of wisdom and knowledge) flies only after dusk (that is, after events have taken place, and an account or analysis can be made). Knowledge and history come after the facts. But the “facts” are the result of the conflicts of history, the “synthesis” triumphing after the struggle of “thesis” and “antithesis”; and once we inject the notion of “power” as the engine of the conflict and the unfolding of events, the resulting fact is the creation of the winning side, the winning power.

    Interestingly, in the excellent article in Wikipedia on the “philosophy of history”, it mentions that “In What is Enlightenment? (1784), Immanuel Kant defined the Aufklärung as the capacity to think by oneself, without referring to an exterior authority, be it a prince or tradition”, and adds the direct quote from Kant:
    “Enlightenment is when a person leaves behind a state of immaturity and dependence (Unmündigkeit) for which they themselves were responsible. Immaturity and dependence are the inability to use one’s own intellect without the direction of another. One is responsible for this immaturity and dependence, if its cause is not a lack of intelligence or education, but a lack of determination and courage to think without the direction of another. Sapere aude! Dare to know! is therefore the slogan of the Enlightenment.”

    Which is very applicable to the dispute about methodology over the use of the New Testament to establish or deny the existence of Jesus.

    Voltaire, a great skeptic, doubted that we could get to truth using the ancient records about their own history: “All the ancient histories, as one of our wits say, are just fables that have been agreed upon. ~Voltaire, Jeannot et Colin.” It is certain that this skepticism justifies the doubts of mythicists about the veracity of the Gospel stories versus the firm beliefs of established theologians.

    On this subject, it is worth remembering Bart Ehrman’s position of absolute confidence in the historicity of Jesus:
    “The reality is, we know very little about mystery religions-the whole point of mystery religions is that they’re secret! So I think it’s crazy to build on ignorance in order to make a claim like this. I think the evidence is just so overwhelming that Jesus existed, that it’s silly to talk about him not existing. I don’t know anyone who is a responsible historian, who is actually trained in the historical method, or anybody who is a biblical scholar who does this for a living, who gives any credence at all to any of this.” ( Bart Ehrman, interview with David V. Barrett, “The Gospel According to Bart”, Fortean Times (221), 2007).

    So the fight is sure to go on, theologians passing themselves off as historians are never going to abandon or even examine the thesis of the non-historicity of Jesus as long as their income, their own career, and the safety and well-being of their families depend on maintaining Christianity’s unshakeable belief about the existence of Jesus Christ.

    • 2012-02-06 07:48:33 UTC - 07:48 | Permalink

      Those are unusual words to use in persuasive speech. “Crazy”? “Silly”? If you disagree with Bart, then you’re “build[ing] on ignorance.” On the other hand, scholars who agree with him are “responsible” and “trained.”

      Awhile back in an interview with the Infidel Guy, Dr. Ehrman said that people who disagreed with the scholarly consensus were just trying to put out “sensational books and make a lot of money.” He declared: “One has to look at historical evidence. And if you say that historical evidence doesn’t count, then I think you get into huge trouble because then how do you, I mean, why not just deny the holocaust?”

      Over on Exploding Our Cakemix, a certain scholar writes once again today that he will no longer interact with Neil “as though he were a sane/honest individual who knows how to interact with other human beings.” Did you catch that? A public intellectual working at a moderately prestigious university is publicly calling some guy on the Internet a nut, a liar, and (apparently) a sociopath, simply because Neil doesn’t agree with him and because Neil keeps asking the good doctor in vain to explain his positions.

      How did it get like this? Well, here’s my theory, which you can take with a grain of salt. Behavior this widespread and this robust cannot be a random event. It has to be learned and relearned. The reason NT scholars resort to sneering condescension, name-calling, and over-the-top character assassination is that — like any robust behavior — it is a strategy that has worked in the past. That is to say, there has been a continuing positive feedback loop that has caused this behavior (which otherwise would be judged as far outside the boundaries of normal human conduct) to become ingrained and socially acceptable.

      The source of this obnoxious behavior and its enduring acceptability has to be the guild itself. They’re the ones who built the electrified fence around Jesus mythicism. They’re the ones who dug the trench around the perimeter and filled it with cow manure. When NT scholars say “no serious scholar” believes mythicism is an option, they’re repeating what they’ve been told, namely: “If you do not follow the party line on this subject, you are not a ‘serious scholar,’ and you can forget about being published or getting tenure.”

      Of course, there’s another feedback loop that amplifies the effect of the Simulated Hysteria Against Mythicism, i.e., the sham-tantrum. When someone ignores the warning signs clearly posted on the electric fence, whether it’s someone inside the guild (Robert M. Price, Richard Carrier) or outside the guild (G.A. Wells, Rene Salm, Neil Godfrey), they really lose it. The froth starts flying. The eyes roll back into the head. Somebody get a tongue depressor, quick!

      You would think that after the sham-tantrum had passed and they had calmed down, changed their underwear, and took some time to reflect on the matter, they might come to the realization that just perhaps stamping their little feet, screaming, and calling a stranger in public a liar, an idiot, a holocaust-denier, and a sociopath might be considered a little over the top.

      I regret to report that this hasn’t happened yet.

  • Pingback: Funny Mythicist Quote of the Day (Neil Godfrey) « Exploring Our Matrix

  • Robert Wahler
    2012-02-06 08:33:57 UTC - 08:33 | Permalink

    “Stevan Davies recently pointed out that a list of the Westar Institute Fellows shows nearly all are or have been affiliated with seminaries and theological institutions.” -the writer states. I found this same situation with the Gospel of Judas advisory panel. All nine members either formerly Christian, or affiliated with Christian institutions currently. The bias is apparent. None understands the mysticism in the document.

  • Bob Carlson
    2012-02-06 10:08:55 UTC - 10:08 | Permalink

    Darwin’s On the Origin of Species… was published in 1859. One hundred and five years later, as a graduate student, I bought a paperback copy of the book and read it; the overwhelming evidence Darwin gave for evolution resulted in my conversion to atheism. In 1962, Watson and Crick had already won the Nobel Prize for their 1953 discovery of the molecular structure of DNA, and since that time there have been enormous amounts of published research supporting Darwin’s theory to the point of making it a fact. Inferring that the scientific consensus on the fact of evolution bears any similarity to the consensus of Biblical scholars on the historicity of Jesus isn’t just silly; it indicates profound ignorance of the biological facts.

    • 2012-02-06 10:22:40 UTC - 10:22 | Permalink

      The same theologian who deplores Creationism and Intelligent Design himself appears to believe that God guided evolution in some way — a belief that is itself a variant of Creationism. Evolution is a theory of random mutations and non-random natural selection. There is no room for God in it at all. To bring God into the picture also implies some sort of determinism — that the human species is some sort of evolutionary “goal” — is to introduce another concept that flies in the face of a genuine understanding of what evolution actually is and how it manifests itself.

      • GakuseiDon
        2012-02-06 11:37:34 UTC - 11:37 | Permalink

        Neil: The same theologian who deplores Creationism and Intelligent Design himself appears to believe that God guided evolution in some way — a belief that is itself a variant of Creationism.

        No, not really. “Creationism” is the idea that the species on earth were created pretty much as-is. “Intelligent Design” allows for some evolution, but [IDists believe] “irreducible complexity” can be observed where the probability of such complexity coming about by natural selection and mutation is very low.

        Both “theories” are promoted as coming from evidence-based observations. Both are opposed to the modern theory of evolution.

        According to Wiki, “theistic evolution” (or “evolutionary creation”) is “not a scientific theory, but a particular view about how the science of evolution relates to religious belief and interpretation. Theistic evolution supporters can be seen as one of the groups who reject the conflict thesis regarding the relationship between religion and science – that is, they hold that religious teachings about creation and scientific theories of evolution need not contradict. Proponents of this view are sometimes described as Christian Darwinists.”

        I think God created the universe around 14 billion years ago, so I guess I am a “creationist” in that sense. There are philosophical implications certainly, but there is no need to bring God into evolution anymore than there is a need to bring God into the theory of gravity.

        • 2012-02-06 13:23:51 UTC - 13:23 | Permalink

          How can belief in evolution be consistent with a belief in a personal God?

          • GakuseiDon
            2012-02-06 16:46:22 UTC - 16:46 | Permalink

            It’s easy. It’s the same as saying belief in gravity is consistent with a belief in a personal God. Belief in a personal God doesn’t mean believing that God is directly acting on the orbits of planets.

            • 2012-02-06 16:53:25 UTC - 16:53 | Permalink

              So humans were not predetermined to be a species? It was just more chance that produced a species to have a relationship with God?

              • Steven Carr
                2012-02-06 17:37:17 UTC - 17:37 | Permalink

                Well, Neanderthals died out. Perhaps they were Untermenschen, not worthy of a relationship with Yahweh.

              • GakuseiDon
                2012-02-06 18:45:15 UTC - 18:45 | Permalink

                As I said, there are philosophical implications to theistic evolution, but nothing that stops a personal God using evolution. For example, imagine that God sent the meteorite 65 million years ago to clear out the dinosaurs and help mammals to evolve. Does that invalidate evolution?

              • Steven Carr
                2012-02-06 18:48:14 UTC - 18:48 | Permalink

                God want human. God no see human. God sad. God crash rock in planet. God see big boom. God happy.

              • 2012-02-06 19:13:08 UTC - 19:13 | Permalink

                Oh God Steven! That’s classic!!! LOL

                I can just see God smashing meteors here and there for the next few million years just to be sure it is first of all mammals that win and then it’s the right sort of type of mammalian-like creature that’s gaining the ascendency (would god have been just as happy with a human mind if it evolved in a finger-flippered dolphin? — it would probably change the plans for the crucifixion), and keeping all those random meteors at bay so they don’t mess up the things with anything too random . . . .

              • GakuseiDon
                2012-02-06 19:41:31 UTC - 19:41 | Permalink

                Exactly! And it is not inconsistent with evolution. Correct?

                As I said, there are philosophical implications. But doesn’t my thought experiment show that evolution is consistent with a belief in a personal God?

              • 2012-02-06 20:03:19 UTC - 20:03 | Permalink

                Oh stop it GDon. You’re making a fool of yourself if you seriously suggest God created humans like that.

              • GakuseiDon
                2012-02-06 21:25:26 UTC - 21:25 | Permalink

                ??? It’s an example, a thought experiment. You asked, “How can belief in evolution be consistent with a belief in a personal God?” I gave an example.

                I’m happy to go with yours. If God created a series of meteors here and there for a few million years, and kept all those random meteors at bay so they don’t mess up the things with anything too random… wouldn’t that allow for a belief in a personal God and a belief in evolution?

              • 2012-02-06 23:11:04 UTC - 23:11 | Permalink

                Where’s Ockham when you need him?

              • 2012-02-06 23:21:46 UTC - 23:21 | Permalink

                It also sounds as close as you can get to angels directly controlling every genetic and environmental change. It also imagines a God directly inflicting eons of unimaginable suffering on sentient creatures for what? What sort of person creates a god like that in their minds?

              • pearl
                2012-02-07 01:31:17 UTC - 01:31 | Permalink

                Gosh, that sounds like something arrogant, ignorant, self-centered Ialdabaoth might do. Um, but he was a mythological character, right? Smashing rocks might have been a fun literary touch.

              • GakuseiDon
                2012-02-07 05:45:59 UTC - 05:45 | Permalink

                Neil: It also sounds as close as you can get to angels directly controlling every genetic and environmental change. It also imagines a God directly inflicting eons of unimaginable suffering on sentient creatures for what? What sort of person creates a god like that in their minds?

                As I’ve said (from the very start), there are philosophical implications.

                But doesn’t my thought experiment show that evolution can be consistent with a belief in a personal God?

              • 2012-02-07 07:42:18 UTC - 07:42 | Permalink

                It is as consistent with evolution as is the idea that hobgoblins and demons and fairies and elves guided evolution. It is as consistent with evolution as is the understanding of the person new to technology asking how a television set works thinking there must be a little man in there making it all happen, and after having all the electronics and physics explained to him finally nods and exclaims, “yes, but there must still be a little man in there making it all work.”

              • GakuseiDon
                2012-02-07 09:57:54 UTC - 09:57 | Permalink

                Neil: It is as consistent with evolution as is the idea that hobgoblins and demons and fairies and elves guided evolution.

                Exactly. It is the same whether the hobgoblins sent the giant meteorite, or aliens, or the Ghost of Christmas Past. Or if they sent small meteorites over millions of years. Or tinkered on a microscopic level. Or did absolutely nothing at all. Certainly there are philosophical implications in each scenario, but none of them are inconsistent with the idea of evolution. Correct?

              • 2012-02-07 12:05:52 UTC - 12:05 | Permalink

                The belief the world was created last Thursday is also consistent with belief in a personal God.

                That’s the problem when you go by what’s possible instead of going with what’s probable. Everything is possible. Not everything is probable.

  • 2012-02-06 11:20:08 UTC - 11:20 | Permalink
  • GakuseiDon
    2012-02-06 12:21:36 UTC - 12:21 | Permalink

    Neil: Stevan Davies recently pointed out that a list of the Westar Institute Fellows shows nearly all are or have been affiliated with seminaries and theological institutions. Most of the scholarly books one picks up on the historical Jesus contain prefaces or concluding chapters in which one reads reflections that sound more like homilies or spiritual confessions. James Crossley has publicly denounced the way biblical scholars so regularly open their academic get-togethers (seminars, workshops) with prayers. Blogs of theologian scholars are dominated by spiritual reflections and sayings… The Christian faith dominates the entire field of biblical studies. To suggest that these scholars are all committed to setting aside their personal faith and seeking truth regardless of where it may lead sounds about as plausible as expecting Nazi era scientists to set aside their political ideology in order to study the biological grounds for racial differences.

    Neil, if the majority of mainstream scholars are like that, wouldn’t you expect that mainstream scholarship would conclude that Jesus was probably born of a virgin or that Jesus was probably resurrected from the dead or that Jesus probably exorcised real demons?

    Unless I am mistaken, such views are not found in peer-reviewed scholarship. Why do you think that is?

    • Evan
      2012-02-06 13:48:27 UTC - 13:48 | Permalink

      Don, if a mainstream scholar published a book that suggested that the resurrection of Jesus was a genuine, historically provable event, would he be ridiculed?

      • 2012-02-06 14:50:01 UTC - 14:50 | Permalink

        You mean like Boyd and Eddy, Bauckham, Craig Evans, N.T. Wright, Craig Blomberg, etc.?

        They’re not ridiculed; they’re praised for their thought-provoking “contributions” to the field. They blur the line between genuine scholarship and apologetics, but that’s perfectly OK.

      • GakuseiDon
        2012-02-06 16:39:35 UTC - 16:39 | Permalink

        Do you have examples of reviews of such books in peer-reviewed publications? Let’s get some examples together!

        • 2012-02-06 16:49:00 UTC - 16:49 | Permalink

          Why not extend your request to citation analysis — or just citations of their works. Why not do surveys of the academic standing of these authors in the biblical studies community, too? Why not get a list of homiletic references from introductions and concluding chapters of a range of noted works on the HJ? Why not just do a survey of all biblical scholars who have blogs? Why not get real and admit that what Avalos and Hoffmann and Davies and Crossley and others have pointed out is as obvious as the nose on your face?

          • GakuseiDon
            2012-02-06 19:35:29 UTC - 19:35 | Permalink

            If peer-reviewed publications reflect the majority of scholars who aren’t able to leave aside their beliefs, then I would expect to see the picture of the Jesus that is presented in the mainstream to be more theologically consistent with those beliefs. It just doesn’t appear to be the case. In-depth analysis of the bias being expressed in peer-reviewed publications would be just what we need, I agree! Good suggestion!

            Neil: Why not get real and admit that what Avalos and Hoffmann and Davies and Crossley and others have pointed out is as obvious as the nose on your face?

            According to you above, “Hoffmann remarked on this blog that the reason the Christ myth theory is not given more attention among scholars has more to do with conditions of academic appointments than common sense”. Not really related to peer-reviewed publications, AFAICS.

            You wrote “Stevan Davies recently pointed out that a list of the Westar Institute Fellows shows nearly all are or have been affiliated with seminaries and theological institutions.” Unless this is reflected in their output in peer-reviewed publications, it’s not related to my point on peer-reviewed publications, AFAICS.

            You wrote “James Crossley has publicly denounced the way biblical scholars so regularly open their academic get-togethers (seminars, workshops) with prayers.” Not related to my point.

            On Avalos. What is his view of the figure of the historical Jesus as presented in peer-reviewed publications? Is it affected by the theological convictions of the majority of scholars? If so, how?

            Personally I believe there is so little we can know about the historical Jesus that he might as well not exist. Doherty once described me as a “99% mythicist”, for what it’s worth. Still, I’ve found JBL and other peer-reviewed publications don’t reflect a position that couldn’t be held by any secular scholar (to the credit of the peer-review process) But I’m happy to be proved wrong.

            • 2012-02-06 20:00:22 UTC - 20:00 | Permalink

              Does the word “pettifogger” mean anything to you?

              • GakuseiDon
                2012-02-06 21:30:55 UTC - 21:30 | Permalink

                No; thanks. Anyway, it would be an interesting test, and one that is doable. Is the figure of a historical Jesus that is accepted by mainstream scholarship in peer-reviewed publications consistent with a secular view of Jesus? I think it is. And if that is the case, then it suggests that scholars are able to separate their beliefs from their scholarship. Thanks for your time.

    • Robert Wahler
      2012-02-07 05:17:13 UTC - 05:17 | Permalink

      James Tabor told me “You’ve drunk the cool-aide” when I told him about currently living Masters. Bart Ehrman told me not to write him anymore. (I’m also a FORMER Christian, better informed now, and better informed than he about mysticism.) Bob Eisenman told me not to expect a hearing when speaking of Indian anything. Elaine Pagels said not to quote her when she said good things to me about my manuscript. Marvin Meyer sees “no reason to think Judas is the sacrifice” in the Gospel of Judas, after I told him how to read it correctly. Gesine Robinson said “unfortunately for you, “Judas stopped gazing at Jesus” in the luminous cloud, like that meant he couldn’t be in it with him, merged in him. Louis Painchaud said “time to end our discussion” when he tired of hearing about the good Judas. Etc.. Many, including Spong and Crossan, don’t respond at all. All are Christian or former Christian except Eisenman, who is a Jew.

  • 2012-02-06 13:37:21 UTC - 13:37 | Permalink

    Once again the fallacy of appeal to ignorance. As I like to quote:

    I advise my philosophy students to develop hypersensitivity for rhetorical questions in philosophy. They paper over whatever cracks there are in the arguments. (Dennett’s Darwin’s Dangerous Idea, p. 178)

    Why not address the arguments I make instead of posing false alternatives?

    Perhaps — just maybe — most of those committed to faith do not believe in the virgin birth etc. Even Spong finds he must believe in the historical Jesus.

    You missed the sentences before this quote that addressed the testimony of Avalos and Hoffmann, too. Do you deny that the field of biblical studies is dominated by persons with Christian faith commitments? Do you deny that the Christian faith has any influence on the academic output and interests of the field?

    • GakuseiDon
      2012-02-06 16:36:07 UTC - 16:36 | Permalink

      Neil: Do you deny that the field of biblical studies is dominated by persons with Christian faith commitments?

      No.

      Neil: Do you deny that the Christian faith has any influence on the academic output and interests of the field?

      Actually, I guess I do, at least when it comes to peer-review. It seems to me that the mainstream view of Jesus in academia between non-Christian scholars and Christian scholars — as represented in peer-review literature — is pretty much the same. If that is the case, obviously Christian faith is not having any influence.

      It should be easy enough to check. We could look at the last 10 years of the quarterly JBL and see if it is possible to determine from reading the journal articles alone the beliefs of the writer. If it isn’t possible, then peer-review is doing its bit. Here is the index from the Winter 2010 JNL:

      Esther and Benjaminite Royalty: A Study in Inner-Biblical Allusion (625–644)
      Ben Sira and the Giants of the Land: A Note on Ben Sira 16:7 (645–655)
      When Did Angels Become Demons? (657–677)
      A Rabbinic Satire on the Last Judgment (679–697)
      The Life of Aesop and the Gospel of Mark: Two Ancient Approaches to Elite Values (699–716)
      Audience Inclusion and Exclusion as Rhetorical Technique in the Gospel of Mark (717–735)
      “Stretch Out Your Hand!” Echo and Metalepsis in Mark’s Sabbath Healing Controversy (737–758)
      Mark’s Empty Tomb and Other Translation Fables in Classical Antiquity (759–776)
      “Do You Love Me?” A Narrative-Critical Reappraisal of ἀγαπάω and φιλέω in John 21:15–17 (777–792)
      A Note on Papias’s Knowledge of the Fourth Gospel (793–794)
      Succeeding Judas: Exegesis in Acts 1:15–26 (795–799)
      Revelation 5:1 and 10:2a, 8–10 in the Earliest Greek Tradition: A Response to Richard Bauckham (801–816)

      This is from the interesting “Mark’s Empty Tomb and Other Translation Fables in Classical Antiquity” article:

      “Struggling under the weight of contemporary, socioreligious demands, prevailing scholarship regarding Mark’s enigmatic ending may prove nothing short of delusional. Several factors, in my view, conspire, prohibiting a clear understanding of how such a text would have likely performed in the ancient Mediterranean world…

      Mark 16:1–8 foregrounds not an evincing, postmortem appearance of a risen Jesus but a cenotaph with a missing body. This ending has seemed so strangely unsatisfying and unresolved that many scholars have supposed a missing ending for the narrative, lost early in the process of textual transmission. Given, however, the implications of the topos of the “missing body” in classical and late ancient Mediterranean literature, this supposition appears all too hasty. Plutarch’s Vita Romuli describes at length the function of the “missing body” as a convention in Hellenistic and Roman narrative, citing Romulus, Aristeas of Proconnesus, the Olympic hero Kleomedes, and Alcmene as various examples.”

      • 2012-02-06 16:44:27 UTC - 16:44 | Permalink

        And it is these very sorts of literary studies that I love and have often discussed on this blog — including especially those related to Mark’s empty tomb. So what is your point?

        • GakuseiDon
          2012-02-06 17:15:28 UTC - 17:15 | Permalink

          Neil, my point hasn’t changed It is this: You wrote: The Christian faith dominates the entire field of biblical studies. To suggest that these scholars are all committed to setting aside their personal faith and seeking truth regardless of where it may lead sounds about as plausible as expecting Nazi era scientists to set aside their political ideology in order to study the biological grounds for racial differences.

          But if that is so, then I suggest we should see that represented in peer-reviewed biblical studies. I don’t think the evidence bears this out; however, I have proposed a test to see if this is what is happening.

          Here is a snippet from another article, “When Did Angels Become Demons?”:

          “According to familiar Christian mythology, demons are or were fallen angels. Satan was an angel who rebelled against God and was cast out of heaven. Other angels rebelled along with him and became his minions. These fallen angels became demons. The mythology also assumes that “demon” refers to the same being as “evil (or unclean or polluted) spirit.”

          Angels populated Paul’s world in a lively way. Contrary to modern popular assumptions, angels for Paul were not always good… if one takes “the rulers of this age” in 1 Cor 2:6 and 8, who did not understand God’s mystery and therefore “crucified the lord of glory,” to be a reference to angels (note that ἄρχαι are coupled with “angels” in Rom 8:38), this would certainly represent a reference to evil angels.

          Contrary to what may be common assumptions, this mythology was not shared by most ancient Jews, including those who wrote and translated the Hebrew Bible, most writers of ancient noncanonical Jewish texts, and Jews in general before the rise of Christianity. Moreover, that myth, in its complete form, is not found in the NT, though separate aspects of it may be discerned there. The Christian myth that equated fallen angels with demons arose in the second and third centuries c.e. It was an invention of late ancient Christian writers. From a historical point of view, therefore, we should not retroject the equation of demons with fallen angels back into the minds of NT writers. Angels became demons only beginning in the second century and only then at the hands of Christians.”

          I suggest the author’s description of “Christian mythology” here is less likely if the majority of scholars believe that demons actually exist. It is preliminary evidence against the idea that “these scholars are all committed to setting aside their personal faith”, at least in peer-reviewed publications.

          • 2012-02-06 17:26:25 UTC - 17:26 | Permalink

            I think your efforts are like someone trying to convince us that there is no wood, only a few trees. Just look at the trees. There is no wood.

      • Steven Carr
        2012-02-06 17:42:21 UTC - 17:42 | Permalink

        So GDon cites precisely ZERO articles on the historical Jesus and claims that this is relevant to discussing whether or not New Testament scholars use external controls to determine facts.

        The articles GDon cites, assuming he has taken care to produce a representative sample, (and he may not have taken much care) simply demonstrate that if you want standard historical methods to be used in your articles, you won’t find them in articles which discuss the exegesis of words in the New Testament or audience responses to the Gospel of Mark

      • Beachbum
        2012-04-08 09:05:43 UTC - 09:05 | Permalink

        Since the advent of the observational methodologies which produced the Enlightenment Era, the Gospels have been perceived as reflecting myths about naturally occurring historical events, as opposed to a history of supernatural events. Note that both views still assume historicity. This was a doomed assumption which was made clear with the dating of the texts.

        The natural evolution of these ideas among scholars from a Christian fundamentalist view to a more educated, while still theistic, view still presumes historicity; while among lay Christians the idea has evolved imperfectly, and in some cases, imperceptibly. A practice of rationalizing biblical claims to reflect something less absurd has been employed by biblical scholars for roughly 200 years while still holding to some claim of historicity of the key character and main events with no logical reason to do so; this reflects their bias.

        To claim that biblical scholars are not injecting their Christian faith into their conclusions because you find no evidence that they evince some of the more literal views lay Christian’s still hold is to ignore 200 years of scholars acquiescing (Ha! I mean succumbing) to the pressure of historic and scientific evidence. It’s also an attack of a straw man representation of the author’s point in this blog.

        It is the adherence to the idea that the Bible has anything meaningful to say about turn of the era history which Christians hold on to with what seems to be ever more desperate retorts which shows a strong theistic bias in Bible scholarship.
        It is my contention that all which is left for the Bible to enlighten us on is the mindset of the authors consequent to the milieu within which the books were written. The Bible, in my view, is a collection of theological treatise part symbolic, part syncretized within the mystic and mythological genre of the age, but which uses historical details as a background lattice work to suspend disbelief.

        I have yet to see evidence which counters this view.

  • maryhelena
    2012-02-06 17:38:46 UTC - 17:38 | Permalink

    Neil

    The bottom line in all of this is that the ahistoricist/mythicist position – as of now – is not strong enough to topple the assumed historical JC from his pedestal. That, I’m afraid, is the current reality. Whatever it was that ‘Paul’ was up to with his theological/philosophical pursuits; however one can put a first century or a modern day spin on all of it; one is nowhere near addressing the real questions over JC. Questions related to the gospel storyboard. And, no, arguing for a historicized myth, a historicized version of ‘Paul’s’ ‘spiritual’ Christ figure, does not cut it as an adequate answer to the questions raised by the gospel JC story. Yes, that gospel JC story is awash with theology and mythology – but its also infused with history. Jewish history – and to write that off as of no consequence is to write off the whole of the OT and its concerns with ‘salvation history’.

    Indeed, there was no historical gospel JC, however interpreted. But to cut off history as of no interest to Jewish writers is to deny the ahistoricists/mythicists their only way forward in this historicist/ahistoricist debate. Indeed, Doherty has done fine work – but it is not enough. Rather than giving the ahistoricists/mythicists a forward leap it has given the historicists a field day. Shouting from the roof tops, or the street corner, or just that old standby – the computer keyboard, that JC was a myth – when all one has going for ones claim is nothing more than an interpretation of ‘Paul’ – heaven help us all!

    Neil, the historicists JC will not be toppled by more interpretations of ‘Paul’. It will not be toppled by pointing out yet another mythological usage or another OT type etc. Yes, JC is a literary creation. But a literary creation for what reason? What was the motive? What was the intent? In a court of law it is these questions that are raised when a crime has been committed. Sure, not a crime creating a literary JC – but the questions are still valid and the ahistoricist/mythicists have to find answers to them if they want to move the historicist/ahistoricist debate forward.

  • 2012-02-07 01:33:49 UTC - 01:33 | Permalink

    Hector Avalos writes:

    So how is it that most Christian academic biblical scholars never see anything that Jesus does as wrong or evil? The answer, of course, is that most Christian biblical scholars, whether in secular academia or in seminaries, still see Jesus as divine, and not as a human being with faults.

    Such scholars are still studying Jesus through the confessional lenses of Nicea or Chalcedon rather than through a historical approach we would use with other human beings [such as Alexander the Great or Augustus Caesar, (where) they note the good and the bad aspects of their actions].

    I think this says it all, really, when it comes to biblical scholars and their treatment of the “historical” Jesus. Most biblical scholars are Christians first and scholars second. As Christians, they idolize Jesus, and this idolatry of Jesus comes through in their scholarly treatment of him.

    Avalos has continually stated in books and articles he’s written that current Biblical studies mainly exists as a religionist enterprise. The only historical Jesus research being done is by those same Biblical historians, working to promote a religionist point of view. Ergo, historical Jesus research is mainly a religionist enterprise. If most biblical scholars don’t study the historical Jesus objectively, there’s no way they would be able to set aside their idolatry of Jesus to look at Jesus Mythicism fairly.

    Granted, I’m agnostic about the issue, leaning slightly towards the historical camp, but this lack of objectivity among this subset of the scholarly guild is abjectly disappointing.

    • Bob Carlson
      2012-02-07 05:17:02 UTC - 05:17 | Permalink

      Perhaps Hector Avalos is being a bit generous in his assertion about the historical approach being used for human beings other than the hypothetical JC. I recently finished reading the book Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. The author cites “heroification” as one of the reasons that authors of American History high school textbooks don’t discuss the less than admirable qualities or decisions of politicians like American Presidents. If the truth can be varnished so readily on behalf of persons who lived so recently, what are the implications for reports of persons regarded as gods among groups of people who lived near the eastern Mediterranean about 2000 years ago?

      • Robert Wahler
        2012-02-07 05:23:14 UTC - 05:23 | Permalink

        Jesus WAS “God”, in the mystic sense of the word, as Word incarnate. He just got hijacked by the churchies.

      • Evan
        2012-02-07 06:24:39 UTC - 06:24 | Permalink

        Lies My Teacher Told Me was a fantastic book. I also recommend WRONG by David Freeman about the frequent failures of expert consensuses.

        Anyone who has read both books and still appeals to the authority of biblical scholars is almost certainly a believing Christian.

        • 2012-02-07 07:46:57 UTC - 07:46 | Permalink

          Are you able to give us some case studies from Wrong or outline the principles brought out?

          • Evan
            2012-02-07 21:04:07 UTC - 21:04 | Permalink

            From WRONG:

            “The problems with collaborative and community thinking have been highlighted by a stream of studies, starting with the Yale psychology researcher Irving Janis’s classic examination of ‘groupthink’ back in 1972, which showed how groups could reach terrible decisions that none of the individuals in the group ever would have made on his own. As Janis and many other have shown — and as most of us know all too well — groups are frequently dominated not by people most likely to be right, but by people who are belligerent, persuasive, persistent, manipulative or forceful. Those who are even mildly adept at getting people to go along with them can quickly form small alliances of viewpoint that may in turn convince others to join in, eventually swaying even those with doubts — most of us don’t want to be the odd man out. (Some of us may recall the old Candid Camera segment in which an unsuspecting victim steps onto an elevator filled with several in-on-the-joke riders who turn to face the back of the elevator, leading the victim, clearly against her better judgment, to do the same.) As Colin Camerer, a decision-science researcher at the California Institute of Technology told me, ‘Groups distribute responsibility for being wrong, so that individuals drop their guard against errors and bad judgment. Researchers have noted that the larger the number of people who contribute to a research project, the greater the chances that at least one of them will fabricate, misanalyze or otherwise distort data, and the harder it will be to track down the culprit.

            Once a wrong decision has been formed, even highly competent, confident people will be reluctant to voice opinions that go against it, thanks to the notion, drilled into our heads from elementary school up through the workplace, that forging cooperation and agreement is critical. ‘There’s a cultural norm of how we behave as professionals, and part of it is that we’re overly trained in consensus,’ says Daniel Eisenstadt, the director of the Philadelphia-based private-equity firm CMS. Eienstadt, a Harvard Business School graduate, points out that students at graduate schools are expected to quickly adapt themselves to a culture that favors building on others’ opinions rather than challenging them while also absorbing the opinions of their instructors wholesale.

            Academic, financial and clinical researchers submit themselves to a pack mentality at least as easily as most sorts of groups or communities. ‘They go off on the wrong direction, following one another like any collection of humans,’ says Peter Sheridan Dodds, a University of Vermont mathematician who also does work in sociology and biology, among other fields.”

            • 2012-02-10 05:49:40 UTC - 05:49 | Permalink

              Amen! Surely many of us know this from experience and would relate to the study and analysis here. And it is this very nature of the academic society (as with any ‘collaborative and community’ body) that R. Joseph Hoffmann has addressed several times in his own comments or posts, speaking of what biblical scholars might “snicker” over in private board room meetings but not dare publish openly.

              Those who try to uphold the pure workings of nothing but intellectual integrity among New Testament scholars on a personal level are promoting self-serving myths about their own selves or their authorities.

              And this makes my thumbnail representation of the theologian in my original post quite apt, too — my biggest disappointment in this series of comments is that no-one seems to have indicated they recognized who the famous theologian is. ;-)

  • Robert Wahler
    2012-02-07 09:17:14 UTC - 09:17 | Permalink

    My experience with Bible “experts” so far teaches me to avoid them.

    • ROO BOOKAROO
      2012-02-07 14:54:17 UTC - 14:54 | Permalink

      Here is a pertinent quote from Chris Albert Wells on the same subject:

      “Habits of thought and intellectual laziness can be just as blind. It may surprise many that university teachers are rarely very open-minded. They are even terribly allergic to ideas that they have not personally formulated and will weigh on their reputation to destroy them. That’s however a normal reaction. We can unfortunately give endless examples of brilliant ideas that were rejected for decades as being extremely foolish by influential and self-righteous university stars.”

      • 2012-02-07 16:43:25 UTC - 16:43 | Permalink

        The quotes are interesting but I’d also like to see some specific examples, especially any of a comparable nature to what we are discussing.

        • Evan
          2012-02-08 04:19:57 UTC - 04:19 | Permalink

          Neil, Freeman details the US housing bubble, WMD in Iraq, the epidemic of “autism” and the backlash against it. He mentions, “of the ten deadliest plane crashes in history, cockpit tapes reveal that six of them — killing a total of some 2,400 people — took place with at least one crew member being fully aware of the mistake that was about to bring down the plane, but staying mostly quiet because the rest of the crew thought differently.” He discusses the faddishness of business school expert consensuses and the multiple problems associated with medical testing and drug evaluation. His litany of expert failures is so long it’s hard to do anything other than recommend the book, but I hope this gives you a taste.

      • Robert Wahler
        2012-02-08 06:47:43 UTC - 06:47 | Permalink

        Thanks, Roo. Nice to hear from Chris, as he was one of only two so far to review my book, “Saviors: Beyond Qumran, Nag Hammadi, and the New Testament Code”. I could tell stories. (Well, I did above — about my treatment at the hands of intellectuals. It’s been really disappointing. Over and over again, no one wants to consider a new point of view not their own… even when it is the RIGHT view.)

  • Pingback: Neil Godfrey’s lousy defense of Christ-myth hypocrisy « Vridar

  • 2012-02-09 00:50:16 UTC - 00:50 | Permalink

    Secular critics make the very same mistake as the Fundamentalists, however different the conclusions derived therefrom: the writings to the NT constitute our primary if not our sole source for knowledge of the man Jesus.
    Present historical methods and knowledge recognizes that none of the Jewish scriptures, the OT, is prophetic witness to Jesus, but also that none of the writings of the NT, the writings of Paul, the Gospels, as well as the later writings of the NT are apostolic witness to Jesus as the early church mistook them to be. Thus they are not reliable sources for knowledge of Jesus. It further recognizes that Christianity which is based on the writings of the NT is not a reliable source for knowledge of Jesus. The real argument is: What is the real NT Scriprural source for knowledge of the man Jesus. We all need to at least get straight on what the question of the HJ is about.

  • 2012-03-28 05:43:33 UTC - 05:43 | Permalink

    “Biblical studies is probably the most ideologically oriented of all academic disciplines.”
    I think economics is probably more so, but yeah. Bible Studies was founded and perpetuated *as a Christian institution*. There are plenty of brilliant and erudite people who work in Biblical studies, but to turn the anti-Mythicists comparisons back on them: there were plenty of brilliant and erudite Nazis. Who knew where their bread was buttered and/or couldn’t STAND to not believe in the magical nature of the German race.

    • 2012-03-28 06:42:27 UTC - 06:42 | Permalink

      Exactly. And today we occasionally see references among scholars to brilliant minds of the past but chastising them and using modern values as reasons to dismiss their work.

      The ideological undercurrent is so easy to spot when one compares, for instance, Ehrman attacking what he sees as Doherty’s “weakest arguments first” while we read on McGrath’s blog that Doherty is “using creationist tactics” when he attacks the “weakest arguments first”. Of course in Doherty’s case his deepest sinister motive is clear: he is doing this in the nefarious “hope that his readers will think” even the good arguments are bad by the time they get to them. But of course there is no such inner motive when Ehrman uses the same “tactic”. He is on the right side of the ideological fence so he has integrity and training. Doherty, on the wrong side of the ideological divide, is said to be machiavellian if he follows the same methods.

      • 2012-03-28 07:32:59 UTC - 07:32 | Permalink

        I can almost sense them falling into the old Marxist polylogism. “Well, the reason you’re wrong is because Peasant Logic is different from Professor Logic.”

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