2012-05-23

Earl Doherty’s Response to Maurice Casey

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by Earl Doherty

Maurice Casey has posted his foray against mythicism on R. Joseph Hoffmann’s blog. This post is Earl Doherty’s initial response. It has also been sent to Hoffmann’s blog but at the time of this posting on Vridar it is awaiting Hoffmann’s approval to be posted there.

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I see Casey’s basic ‘arguments’ against mythicism, and me in particular, as:

A – More unworkable reasoning to justify why Paul and all the other epistle writers have nothing to say about an historical Jesus. Casey thinks we should not expect to find “later Christian tradition” in the writings of Paul, ‘later tradition’ like the fact that Jesus was crucified on earth, by Pilate, that he taught anything about loving one another or any of the ethical teachings of the Gospel (not even inauthentic ones), that he performed miracles, prophesied the End-time, and so on.

Boy, what an HJ that leaves to champion! Imagine devoting one’s professional life to protecting the existence of such an undetectable mundane figure, no matter what the cost in surrendering one’s scholarly principles!

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B – Of course, in a “high context culture” no one, not a single writer of the non-Gospel/Acts New Testament and several non-canonical ones, felt the slightest urge to mention anything that was said or done by Jesus on earth, even in support of key arguments and debates they were engaged in, even when describing the genesis and ongoing forces within their movement. They so lacked such an urge that they routinely speak of that genesis and ongoing force in ways which exclude such a figure. All their readership and audience were so “high context” that they never expected, let alone demanded, any reference to the words and deeds of the historical figure they believed in and regarded as Deity incarnate.

I guess mythicists, in their misguided expectations, are all of us “low culture” idiots.

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C — Absolutely everything in the Gospels (even the titulus on the cross!) was so thoroughly known to all of Paul’s and other epistle writers’ readers, in every corner from Galatia to Rome, that it would have been a sin and an insult to even mention a single one of them.

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D – Doherty uses documents to bolster his ‘heavenly Christ’ theory whose manuscripts are very late (apparently the dating of the extant manuscript is paramount) or whose dating has been placed by some scholars (the competent ones, of course) as too late to reflect Paul’s views. (I wonder why Casey didn’t appeal to Yonge’s dating of the Similitudes of Enoch to the late 2nd century as an example of lasting competence. If the once highly regarded Yonge is now out of date, what guarantee is there that the most recent views represent eternal reliability?)

Casey allows no consideration about the actual content of the text, or its layered nature, to indicate an alignment with earlier periods, such as I provide, for example, in regard to the Apocalypse of Elijah and the Vision of Isaiah. (For the latter, Casey admits dating “is difficult to determine,” yet Knibb’s dating in the 2nd century is “reasonable” whereas my dating to “the end of the first century” is not, even though I do indeed give reasons for so doing and dispute Knibb’s arguments for not so doing.)

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E – Casey also admits that the Platonic division of the universe and its related characteristics were known centuries before Christianity, yet somehow such things remained unfamiliar in Jewish society (despite being for centuries under the yoke of Hellenistic cultures, and despite several Jewish sectarian writings which reflect such a familiarity and adoption for their own purposes. If Casey doesn’t like my dating of the Ascension of Isaiah, how about the Wisdom of Solomon for an example of Jewish absorption of pagan philosophy? Is he going to date that into the 2nd or 3rd century? Or Philo?). Moreover, such ideas were unfamiliar to Paul’s gentile readers! What convenient (if ludicrous) isolationism, making every epistle writer’s readership needing the repeated spelling out of where Christ had been crucified or by whom.

(But wait, Paul actually does tell them in 1 Cor. 2:8 that it was the demon spirits, which ancient commentators–no doubt now to be regarded as out of date by modern scholars like Casey–interpreted as such.)

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F — Casey also fails to perceive any difference between needing to repeat to a congregation that the Jesus myth (like the myths of the mystery cults) took place in a mythical setting: between that and feeling an urge to call upon the words and deeds of Jesus to

(a) reflect their faith and interest in such a person and his doings,

(b) to support the points they were arguing and promoting, and

(c) to avoid putting things in such a way that they conveyed the very opposite: that there was no HJ in their own movement’s background.

(Casey, of course, did not take the trouble to try to discredit any argument in that direction based on the texts themselves.)

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G — A woeful lack of a sense of humor which leads Casey to seriously criticize every word I used in my intentionally light and humorous conversation between Paul and some new converts. What a fraud Doherty is, since Paul would never have used the word “Calvary/Golgotha” in conversation since it means “skull”!

Let’s give a round of applause for that profound piece of scholarship and discreditation!

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H — Casey shows a very unsympathetic personal attitude toward the existence of “what some scholars call Q” (obviously those as incompetent as myself) and thus my entire case falls apart since it is partly based on an analysis of Q. He includes a very dubious defence of why Luke would not have taken anything from Matthew’s Nativity story if he was using Matthew. Shades of Goodacre, and no more effective or free of problematic claims.

And Casey’s knock-down argument against Q and those like Kloppenborg who support it is that “the disappearance of Q is difficult to explain”? That’s nonsense, and I’ve given very reasonable explanations for such a situation.

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I – In his defence of Paula Fredriksen, Casey falls into her same illogicality. We don’t see any interest in things like relics of Jesus, or in visiting the sites of salvation, because those interests did not arise until the 4th century! Hmmm, I wonder why. Apparently Casey, like Fredriksen, does NOT wonder why.

Oh yes, they couldn’t bring themselves to visit the site of their Lord’s death because other screams were in the air! Talk about weak constitutions! Funny, there were no screams at the tomb, but Christians show no sign of wanting to visit that either. And if it was supposedly too dangerous to visit such sites en masse, or too impractical to create cultic occasions there while being persecuted, could Paul at least not have snuck off to the “Skull” on his own to absorb his Lord’s recent presence there? Could not a single epistle writer even have referred to such sites as the earthly setting for the death of their Lord? No danger there. And were Christians so weak-kneed–didn’t they avoid martyrdom at all costs?–that they could not bring themselves to visit such sites surreptitiously or even view them from afar?

(This sort of argumentation by Casey is far more lame and ridiculous that anything mythicists have been accused of being guilty of.)

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J – Oh yes, I forgot. Casey says that “early Christian piety did not require shrines or relics.” How do we know this? Obviously, because the early Christian documents do not show an interest in shrines or relics. This is clearly not because they didn’t know of such things, but knowing them, had no interest in them. Why? Because that was the nature of early Christian piety.

Am I the only one getting dizzy from such ‘scholarly’ circular argumentation? This points up Casey’s competence as against mythicist incompetence?

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K – And I am further incompetent because I have not “grappled with” Casey’s own work on the rich Aramaic sources of the Gospels, something for which he enjoys less support from his own ranks than I do for my own work?

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Oh, my! This is a demolition of mythicism? Of me? This justifies the extreme vitriol and smug conviction of his own superiority over an ignoramus like myself? Nothing has changed, boys. This is the traditional attitude of historicist scholarship toward mythicism since time immemorial, and it will continue to be so for the foreseeable future. It’s a scandal in any discipline claiming to be scholarly and open-minded. But I am not going to lose any sleep over it, and I will continue to defend myself and mythicism against it. (Right now, the bulk of my attention and energy is being devoted to my detailed rebuttal to Ehrman’s new book, being serialized on the Vridar blog.)

By the way, note that one of Casey’s main arguments against us is our lack of proper credentials, which explains why we get everything so woefully wrong. But wait. Robert Price is the one mythicist in Casey’s view who does possess the proper credentials and background. But wait. He’s as wrong-headed as the rest of us. So I guess credentials really have nothing to do with it. The bottom line is that mythicism itself is regarded as so reprehensible, so wacko an idea, that anyone championing it, from the heydey of mythicists like J.M. Robertson to that quack Earl Doherty, has to be suffering from either dementia or an anti-Christian agenda blindly devoted to destroying Christianity (which evidently Casey, Ehrman & Co. do not even claim membership in).

The other bottom line for Casey (as with Ehrman) is that the Internet is a hotbed of anti-Christian terrorists. How dare I say that I’m writing for “open-minded laypeople” reachable through the web? None of them are even remotely open-minded–as compared, say, to the open-minded establishment academia represented by Casey and Ehrman (and Hoffmann), who preface all their rants against mythicism by pointing out that we are inherently morons and charlatans, advocating a theory which is as obviously ridiculous as solar-centrism and the movement of tectonic plates. . . . Oh, wait. . . .

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19 Comments

  • ROO BOOKAROO
    2012-05-23 16:35:38 UTC - 16:35 | Permalink

    The link to Hoffmann’s blog “The New Oxonian” shown above doesn’t work.
    http://rjosephhoffmann.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/the-jesus-process-maurice-casey/

    Anyway, the most striking passage, for me, remains the neat invocation of the distinction between “high context culture” and “low context culture”, as “anthropological” constructs that are given force of a law of nature. And the high-handed decision that the Roman Empire universe was a “high context culture”.

    “the fundamental work of the anthropologist E.T. Hall, who introduced the terms ‘high context culture’ and ‘low context culture’ into scholarship.[9] Paul’s epistles were written in a high context culture, which was homogeneous enough for people not to have to repeat everything all the time, whereas American, European and many other scholars belong to a low context culture, which gives them quite unrealistic expectations of what the authors of the epistles ought to have written. This is one basic reason why Paul says so little about the life and teaching of Jesus. To some extent, his Gentile Christians had been taught about Jesus already, so he could take such knowledge for granted. He therefore had no reason to mention places such as Nazareth, or the site of the crucifixion, nor to remind his congregations that Jesus was crucified on earth recently.”

    Nothing is more problematic and questionable than the rationalization of facts taken from ancient or primitive cultures into the neat abstract concepts formulated in modern English by anthropologists. There is an inherent deception in the use of abstract concepts to explain social events. Anthropologists are eager to ferret out abstract principles to bring order to a variety of facts and incidents, but they too often sound like their personal inventions aiming at providing an air of profundity and universality to their classifications.

    This “anthropological” distinction of ‘high context culture’ versus ‘low context culture’ is then used by Casey as the tool to dismiss all the silence in Paul’s epistles as just routine for the times of the first and early second centuries, and perfectly reasonable. And certainly not worth all the hullabaloo made by the long line of scholars who have seen in Paul’s silence about Jesus’s biographical details (miracles, preaching, incidents, trial, Pilate, etc…) a fundamental problem in the NT.

    All the facts of Jesus’s biography are thus supposed to have already circulated all around the Mediterranean, at a time when most ordinary people were illiterate, and means of transportation slow and dangerous, and communication required the dispatching of personal messengers.
    How then was this communication of such vital biographical details about Jesus broadcast over such an immense territory, to so many separated communities and cities, in such a narrow time? It is simply miraculous and unexplained, and the invocation of “high context culture” does nothing to explain it.

    The fundamental conclusion remains that Paul knew nothing of the Gospels, and that they were created quit a while after Paul’s epistles were disseminated. No amount of linguistic “explanations”, with or without “anthropological” concepts, can finesse this basic conundrum.

    The assumption that the wide diversity of cultures in the Greco-Roman world was so “homogeneous” that a basic knowledge of the Jesus drama was already in place, universally known and taken for granted, strikes many scholars as not in the realm of probability and a product of pure fiction.
    Using such ad hoc “anthropological” concepts as if they described an inherent structural law of the Roman Empire world, just to explain a most mysterious phenomenon, is pure legerdemain by Casey. His assumption is improbable and unbelievable. And no additional language by Casey will make it less so.

    • 2012-05-23 17:25:10 UTC - 17:25 | Permalink

      This is all true.

      It also makes you wonder how Jews living in a ‘high-context society’ had absolutely no inkling of what sort of religious beliefs Gentiles might have had, so that Casey can explain that ‘There is however no evidence that such ideas were known in Judaism in Israel, the main source of Paul’s ideas, or that they were widespread enough to be generally known to his Gentile converts.’

      These people were in a ‘high-context’ society, which was ‘… which was homogeneous enough for people not to have to repeat everything all the time..’

      Just how ‘homogenous’ could this culture have been when there was a code of omerta preventing even Paul from hearing about Platonic ideas? Didn’t Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, ever speak to Gentiles in this ‘homogenous’ culture? Surely he must have had a vague idea what religious beliefs pagans had when he was writing about pagan religious practices in 1 Corinthians?

      And , although Paul was writing to a ‘high-context’ society , he sometimes has to remind his readers that Jesus was ‘born of a woman’ (as if that needed to be said about a Jesus who had lived on Earth), and that he had already written them one letter.

      Couldn’t Paul take it for granted that his readers knew he had already sent them a letter?

      And , if we take Maurice’s explanation as totally successful, all it does is establish that we would not expect to find evidence of a historical Jesus in early Christian writings, as they saw no need to mention that there had been a historical Jesus.

      How does explaining that we should not expect evidence of a historical Jesus, count as evidence that there was a historical Jesus?

      • proudfootz
        2012-05-24 11:08:31 UTC - 11:08 | Permalink

        It seems that Paul being forced to claim Jesus was ‘born of woman’ implies someone was saying he wasn’t.

        Just like no one need reiterate that Obama was ‘born in the USA’ unless someone were claiming the opposite.

  • RoHa
    2012-05-24 10:45:41 UTC - 10:45 | Permalink

    ‘“the disappearance of Q is difficult to explain”? That’s nonsense, and I’ve given very reasonable explanations for such a situation.’

    Could you please point where your explanation is? I’ve never studied the details of the Q/noQ debate, or taken a side, but I have thought that the absence of any copy of Q is one of the stronger arguments against it. I’d like to see why it isn’t a strong argument.

    • gmalcolms
      2012-05-24 13:18:42 UTC - 13:18 | Permalink

      That is not a string argument against Q. First of all, there are many Christian (and other) documents from the time period that we know once existed, because someone mentions them, but for which there are no surviving copies. Sometimes all we have to go on is a title; nothing from the document is quoted. I think everyone would agree that only a small fraction of all written material from the time period survives.

      Second, once Matthew and Luke were written and circulated, the original Q document would not have been necessary, since its material had been absorbed into far more popular ones. Something similar probably almost happened to Mark’s Gospel, as it went almost completely uncited in the literature for a long time.

      Third, there is a document, the Gospel of Thomas, that is of the same structure as Q and overlaps a great deal in content. Yet we have only a single copy of the Gospel, from the Nag Hammadi collection unearthed in 1945.

      • gmalcolms
        2012-05-24 13:23:31 UTC - 13:23 | Permalink

        I would add that the lack of any written source documents for any of the Gospels, except each other, hasn’t prevented scholars from positing all manner of written sources for various sections of the Gospels, such as the Passion, nativity scenes, genealogies, etc.

        • RoHa
          2012-05-25 12:18:33 UTC - 12:18 | Permalink

          “the lack of any written source documents for any of the Gospels, except each other, hasn’t prevented scholars from positing all manner of written sources for various sections of the Gospels”

          Our own energetic Neil has provided arguments for a bunch of written sources for some sections. No-one seems to have provided any evidence for oral sources.

      • RoHa
        2012-05-25 12:15:30 UTC - 12:15 | Permalink

        “there are many Christian (and other) documents from the time period that we know once existed, because someone mentions them”

        Putting on an anti-Q hat for the moment, I would point out that, as far as I know, no-one mentions a document that could have been Q.

        “once Matthew and Luke were written and circulated, the original Q document would not have been necessary,”

        With that same ill-fitting hat slipping over my eyes, I would point out that the pious scribes would have preserved even a superfluous document about Jesus, and especially if they did not agree with the way the material was used in Matt and Luke. (And since no early Christian seems to have agreed with any other about what it was they were supposed to believe, I would be astonished oif all the scribes were happy with one or the other of those.)

        “Something similar probably almost happened to Mark’s Gospel, as it went almost completely uncited in the literature for a long time.”

        If Augustine was right, and the theory of Markan precedence is wrong, maybe Mark’s Gospel hadn’t been written at the time the early literature was written. I don’t know when the earliest citations or references to Mark appear, but the earliest manuscript seems to be conventionally dated at around 250 CE! (Later than Irenaeus!)

        “the Gospel of Thomas, that is of the same structure as Q and overlaps a great deal in content. Yet we have only a single copy of the Gospel, from the Nag Hammadi collection unearthed in 1945″

        This is a good reason for thinking that a Q-type document is possible, though, since it cannot be dated with any certainty, it does not constitute evidence that such a collection could have existed before the Canonical Gospels were written.

        But the Gospel of Thomas was mentioned by the Early Christian writers, and scraps of it are found in the Oxyrhynchus fragments. There seems to be no mention, and no scraps, of Q.

        I’m going to take off the hat, now. It makes my brain hurt.

  • RoHa
    2012-05-24 14:34:33 UTC - 14:34 | Permalink

    All the talk about “high context cultures” leads to ask whether these people have a working (and non-circular) definition of a “high context cultures”, whether they have ever actually dealt with real “high context cultures”, whether they think all “high context cultures” are the same, and how they know that the Early Christian culture was a “high context culture”. (And they had better not answer the last question with “because they didn’t mention the life of Jesus.”

    • ROO BOOKAROO
      2012-05-24 15:55:13 UTC - 15:55 | Permalink

      The distinction is borrowed from the 1976 book “Beyond Culture” by Edward T. Hall, especially ch. 6, 7, and 8. http://www.amazon.com/Beyond-Culture-Edward-T-Hall/

      A good overview of Hall’s fascinating career and production can be seen at
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_T._Hall

      No pages from the relevant chapters are shown on the Amazon display of the book, but quite a few pages from the first chapters, enough to get an idea of the way these ideas are presented: as insightful and valuable generalizations of specific experiences, but in no way as absolute natural laws of civilizations. Hall was too conscious of the tentative character of any anthropological generalizations to be fooled by his own ideas.

      The dogmatic use made by Casey of Hall’s concepts is unwarranted, and unscientific. I was willing to give an open ear to his argumentation, but when he pulled these rabbits out of his hat to solve one of the fundamental problems of the NT, pretending to see in those phenomenological concepts an inherent law of the Roman Empire civilization, I lost all my trust in his honesty.

      Casey may be reliable and trustworthy in some specific aspects of his research (his vaunted fluency in Aramaic?), but when he starts waving such “anthropological” concepts, which are no more than interesting, but hypothetical, phenomenological, distinctions, as universal laws of such an immense and complex word as the Roman Empire, one is forced to conclude that he is abusing his reputation in areas where he is no authority whatsoever.

      Same unjustified extended use of reputation is practiced by many experts. For example, by Wallis Budge in Egyptology, when he used his skills as a translator of hieroglyphs to start proposing far-flung theories on Egyptian religion and its sources. It is too easy for an acknowledged expert in one area to start sounding off like a pundit in other fields, making high-sounding pronouncements which are at best personal guesses. Casey is certainly a victim of this self-delusion when it comes to his use of “anthropological” tools.
      An utter joke. Again, as John McEnroe used to scream at Wimbledon, “You cannot be serious!”

      • RoHa
        2012-05-25 12:20:55 UTC - 12:20 | Permalink

        I should have read your first comment before I posted mine.

    • KevinC
      2012-05-24 18:08:54 UTC - 18:08 | Permalink

      I’m not convinced by this “high-context”/”low-context” argument. Alleged “high-context” didn’t stop the epistle writers from appealing to the Hebrew Scriptures to make and clinch their arguments. They had no difficulty referring to Adam and Eve, Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Esau, Moses, etc.. If the Christian community was “high-context” and everyone knew everything about the historical Jesus’ words and deeds, then those words and deeds would have been used as trump cards in arguments precisely because they were well-known and Jesus was the foremost authority. If the community was “low-context” then Epistle writers would have had an incentive to try to teach, validate, and spread the precious tradition as the support for their claims. The difference would be that a “high-context” reference would look more like “Jesus said/did X, therefore my argument about [circumcision, resurrection of the dead, whatever] is correct,” while a low-context reference would look more like “Jesus said X, which was vouchsafed to us by John Mark, the companion of Peter the disciple of Jesus.”

      The phenomenon that historicists need to explain is the fact that Jesus was simultaneously the primary object of reverence and worship, and a nonentity when it came to his words and deeds. Usually human beings who are revered are revered for something like heroic deeds, great teachings, a reputation for mystical enlightenment or magical power, and so on. Name any “great” person (Alexander of Macedon, Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Napoleon, Hatshepsut, Aristotle, etc.) and anyone who is familiar with them can identify at least in vague fashion what was “great” about them. In the case of Jesus, his own worshipers in the Epistolary record cannot provide any reason or motive for their lofty view of the man, as a man. They make no appeal to his wisdom or his miracles or his bravery or any human deed or word. Instead, their devotion centers entirely on theological interpretations of his crucifixion and alleged resurrection, without hardly any explanation as to why he was special enough for his crucifixion to matter.

      In the case of a god, this is not such an anomaly. Gods receive reverence and are special due to their metaphysical nature as gods. If a god’s death cleanses the believer of sin, and his resurrection leads the way to the believer’s blissful hereafter, he can be an object of reverence even without collections of teachings or narrative tales of his confrontations with the Archons. His words and deeds aren’t what makes him important, it’s his metaphysical nature as a god of resurrection and salvation. Compare, as an example, Anubis. He fills a spiritual role, as guide of the dead and operator of the scales of judgment, but the Egyptians had no need for a body of literature about specific underworld journeys, judgments, or teachings of Anubis. In a similar manner, Jesus outside the Gospels fulfills a role: he creates and sustains the Cosmos as an agent of Yahweh, then he descends, is crucified, and rises from death, paving the way for the salvation of those who hope in him.

      So, looking at the Jesus of the Epistles, he resembles a god far more than a great man later deified because of his wise teachings, tales of his magical prowess, bravery, or any other exceptional human actions performed on Earth. The Gospels do provide more of a “human element,” of teachings, alleged miracles, deeds, and a voluntary sacrificial death to answer the question, “Why does this man matter?” But even there, the narratives of his last week, his death and resurrection tower over his life. The anomaly from a historicist perspective is, why did this more human view of Jesus appear so (relatively) late in Christian correspondence, being almost totally absent in the canonical Epistles? Another curious fact is that, for the Epistle writers, Jesus is not the primary, or even a tertiary authority. It is the ancient Hebrew Scriptures, not the words of Jesus that are the go-to source for authoritative backing of arguments. The primary way they try to answer these problems is to theorize that the Gospel tradition (oral tradition, Ehrman’s “multiple sources,” etc.) pre-dates the Epistles, so that the “human element” of Jesus precedes the reduction of him by the Epistle writers to a solely divine and sacrificial role. If this is so, then they can claim a trajectory that leads from a man and his teachings, alleged miracles, and deeds through a growth of semi-divine status as the Gospels follow one another, to the lofty and wholly-spiritual theology of the Epistle writers. Whether this enterprise is successful or not…well, that’s where the debate comes in.

      They can make some strong arguments for their position in my opinion, but this “high-context”/”low-context” thing is not one of them.

      • ROO BOOKAROO
        2012-05-24 18:43:35 UTC - 18:43 | Permalink

        Beautiful and tight summary of the essence of the controversy.
        Could be lengthened and inflated, but not improved in clarity and succintness.

      • ROO BOOKAROO
        2012-05-24 19:09:36 UTC - 19:09 | Permalink

        Moreover, when historicists tried to define the “greatness” of Jesus-Christ in a naturalistic perspective, they did not find it easy.
        Thomas Paine, in the “Age of Reason”, saw it in J.C.’s “philanthropy”. When still in Paris (1793-1802) writing his theological treatise to combat rampant French atheism, he founded a “Church of Theophilanthropy”.
        Later Albert Schweitzer — who famously wrote that the “Jesus of Nazareth” as the Redeemer and Savior Messiah “never had any existence” — shared, like Renan, the 19th-century cult of “great men” struggling against society. He romanticized Jesus as the most sublime human being, infusing the world with a “mighty spiritual force”. Schweitzer became a follower of that energizing human Jesus. The “greatness” of Jesus was then seen in being an example for others to follow. Example of what? Well, good works to fellow-men, as Schweitzer himself did.
        Good enough in the post-Enlightenment atmosphere, but certainly not enough for 1st-century crowds in the Roman Empire.

  • 2012-05-24 17:09:12 UTC - 17:09 | Permalink

    Maurice Casey says it is ‘ludicrous’ for Doherty to put the Testament of Solomon in the first century.

    Why is it ‘ludicrous’ of Doherty to put Testament of Solomon in 1st century AD?

    http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/divinity/rt/otp/guestlectures/harding/

    ‘He comments that ‘the lingering suspicion that the Testament might be medieval is no longer tenable’, and that ‘there is general agreement that much of the testament reflects first-century Judaism in Palestine’ (Duling, APOT I p.942).’

    • 2012-05-25 05:34:14 UTC - 05:34 | Permalink

      I followed up Steven’s post on The Jesus Process with this:

      I agree with Carr. Duling’s discussion of the dating of the Testament of Solomon in Charlesworth’s Old Test. Pseud. I, 940f, sounds anything but risible to me. Duling tells us that the Testament in some kind of developed form has a ‘consensus’ dating of early 3rd century (not the 6th), but a lot of strata are involved in this particular document. He summarizes (as partly quoted by Carr already, to which you made no response):

      “An exception to this trend [dating to 3rd c.] is the recognized authority on the magical papyri, K. Preisendanz, who suggested that the original was from the first or second century A.D. Whether one follows McCown’s early third-century dating or Preisendanz’s earlier one, there is general agreement that much of the testament reflects first-century Judaism in Palestine.”

      Nothing to laugh about I can see there in claiming evidence in the ToS for views about demons in the first century.

      Anyway, this whole objection to my use of the ToS on yours and Casey’s part is a red herring. I used it to back up my contention about belief in demons in the time of Paul. But we really don’t need any more than the witness of the Gospels to tell us that demons were seen as a force to be reckoned with, and let’s not overlook Ephesians 6:12 from the later first century to see that there was a fixation with “our fight …against cosmic powers, against the authorities and potentates of this dark world, against the superhuman forces of evil in the heavens.” What else do you need?

      Bringing up my alleged ‘illegitimate’ dating of ToS as a supposed discrediting of Paul & Co.’s belief in demons without acknowledging that we have all the evidence we need right in the Gospels and epistles (which surely neither of you are ignorant of) is typical historicist misleading tactics. Ehrman indulges in them too, which covers none of you with honor.

      —–

      Hoffmann answered this in a particularly lame manner. He acknowledged that the Testament of Solomon was indeed irrelevant to my point, but complained that the only clear reference to demons in the Pauline corpus was not written by Paul (Eph. 6:12)! Right, Paul knew nothing of demons, that was invented ten years later in his own school.

      Then he had the gall to complain about the “pejorative” tone in my use of “historicist” in “typical historicist misleading tactics”! (Black pots and kettles come to mind, of course.)

      Why, no matter what letters they have after their names, do they all come across as sophomorically-challenged?

      Earl Doherty

  • 2012-05-25 20:51:48 UTC - 20:51 | Permalink

    This high/low context culture concept is something I’d like to look at more closely and appreciate the introductions above. I suspect I will find — as is indicated by others here — that Casey is way out of his depth just as theologians and New Testament scholars so often are when claiming to have the support of concepts from other disciplines. McGrath was caught out merely quote mining Vansina on oral history’s application to New Testament studies (Vansina’s work as a whole undermines the NT case); Richard Bauckham was reading way too much into Paul Ricoeur’s “Memory, History, Forgetting”, and a string of them have demonstrated utter ignorance of the basic precepts of historical method beyond the guild of NT studies. Casey’s references to the high and low culture thing doesn’t sound right, either.

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