2012-06-12

Concluding Response of Blogger Neil Godfrey to Blogger Maurice Casey of TJP®©™

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Anyone who has read the works of Earl Doherty, Robert M. Price and others (even my own posts) knows that our blogger Maurice Casey’s attempts to critique them are unbearably lightweight — except for the unbearably depressing personal vitriol. My guess is that for most part he is reading selections fed to him by a certain hotheaded research assistant who has her own personal axe to grind.

We recently commented on his hallucinatory observation that I don’t read books and even make light of earthquake victims. The latter innuendo indicates that if he ever found out that the New Zealand librarians who published the original article and photograph linked in my post were also atheistic mythicists then he would surely accuse them also of cold-hearted inhumanity. The former charge (that I don’t read books) is loaded with the double irony that he included information that he presumably read in my blog profile, yet in that same profile I explain quite clearly what is meant by my not touching books in my job as a librarian.

With that sort of introduction how can anyone take seriously anything this new internet blogger says. I certainly can’t.

But for the sake of completeness I’ll make the effort to finalize my response to his TJP(C) blogpost.

Did not give proper references

I will never forget Dr James McGrath surmising that my use of quotation marks around the title of a book was a suspicious indicator that I had not read the book. Well, our next circus act is Dr Maurice Casey censuring me because I “did not give proper references” in a blogpost. Ouch! (I hyperlinked direct to the full text of the source itself instead of setting out a full scholarly bibliographic citation. Regrettable! Appalling! Frightful!)

But there is irony here, too, to add even more unbearable lightness to this ultra lightweight scenario. In his criticism of me for, tut tut, supposedly not giving proper references Casey himself fails to accurately cite the post he is quoting, and in fact mangles passages from two different posts all into one paragraph as if they are part of the same post — the main one of which he fails to cite at all. (Did he shuffle his notes after dropping them on the floor?)

In a post headed ‘Biblical historians make detectives look silly[38], he [Blogger Godfrey] did not give proper references, and referred back later to his post like this: ‘Biblical historians who research the foundations of Christianity in the Gospels have sometimes compared their “historical research” work with that of detectives or criminal investigators….. Only by lazy assumptions about their sources can biblical “historians” declare Jesus’ crucifixion a “fact of history”….In other words, Paula Fredriksen is but one of a host of biblical “historians” who “do history” according to the analogy of the silly detectives in my earlier post’ [23rd November, 2010].

The second sentence here, beginning “Only by lazy assumptions”, does not follow on from the first but belongs to an entirely different post of mine that is not referenced at all by Casey. The hyper-linked words “earlier post” refer back to the other post from which Casey has taken the opening sentence of his quotation. (Oh, and the original footnote reference [38] was also mangled on the TJP®©™ blogsite thus rendering it impossible for readers to trace Casey’s source — these people who pooh-pooh the internet and digital resource librarians really should learn a few web basics so they don’t look complete fools when they criticize such things — but I have corrected it here.)

Silly detectives analogy

It was Blogger Fisher who brought my “silly detectives” analogy to the attention of her thesis advisor (Stephanie herself made this clear at the time in her comments and emails) and it was that analogy that so offended her and that Casey is addressing here. Stephanie Fisher is well known for jumping to wild conclusions and generalizations at slightest suggestion of any form of criticism at all and took my analogy to a methodology as an insult against all scholars personally. Suddenly I am painted as one who not only doesn’t read books. I also “hate scholars” and am appallingly, frightfully rude.

Hoo boy. Sorry, but I can’t take this sort of nonsense seriously. (And in particular with respect to Paula Fredriksen, I have often quoted her on this blog with seriousness and respect as a word search here on her name will confirm. Stephanie Fisher is incapable of handling any criticisms of any aspect of her scholarly heroes.) Anyone who knows me and the scholarly works I discuss and engage with knows where I stand. (Even the words quoted by Casey make it clear I am poking a bit of fun at what I argue is a fallacious method, not persons.)

But for anyone who doesn’t know me Bloggers Fisher and Casey are guilty of publishing libel.

Gross personal rudeness

Casey fails to discern the difference between scholarly dialogue and personal rudeness. (No doubt he believes his own ad hominem blogposts and attacks elsewhere on mythicists are “scholarly” and not personal attacks at all.)

Godfrey’s earlier post said that Fredriksen ‘is one scholar who did “respond” to something Doherty had written, but her response demonstrated that she at no point attempted to read Doherty’s piece seriously. One might even compare her responses to those of a naughty schoolgirl who has no interest in the content of the lesson, believing the teacher to be a real dolt, and who accordingly seeks to impress her giggly “know-it-all” classmates by interjecting the teacher with smart alec rejoinders at any opportunity.’ Godfrey seems to have no idea that his gross personal rudeness is no substitute for a scholarly response, which is what anyone seriously interested in truth would have provided.

I was pointing out that when addressing mythicism Paula Fredriksen was not offering a scholarly response. How can anyone provide “a scholarly response” to flippant remarks? As we may infer from Casey’s conclusion, neither Fredriksen nor Casey is “seriously interested in truth” when it comes to the mythicist debate.

I have since re-read the Fredriksen’s remarks (now interspersed with Earl Doherty’s own commentary) and on second thought I wonder if I might indeed have been a bit harsh in some of what I said. Others can judge. But the point is that the frivously dismissive approach of Fredriksen towards mythicism is so typical of many New Testament scholars who speak about it and it is that unprofessional attitude that deserves exposure.

That’s not attacking, let alone hating, scholars.

Home of mendacity and hatred for scholars

The internet, for which these pseudo-scholars write, has become a home of mendacity, including many outpourings of hatred for scholars. One example is blogger Neil Godfrey . . . .

Here we have more libel from Casey. Anyone who reads this blog or any of my discussions both with and about scholars knows I don’t hate them. Just look at the books of scholars I have discussed here and my reminders that my own arguments are drawn from scholars themselves. Anyone, that is, except Stephanie Fisher and Maurice Casey.

(If and when I do lose respect a scholar as a professional it is not because they are scholars. It is because of persistent displays of personal arrogance, abusive language, demonstrated intellectual incompetence and laziness, and unconscionable reactions when exposed as dishonest. The very few who do fall into that category do try to portray my contempt for them personally as a loathing of scholars generally — for reasons not hard to fathom.)

Casey cites no instances to support his accusation that I am mendacious. Elsewhere, however, he is quick to accuse mythicists of lying because they think and argue differently from him. But that’s about as far as his “proofs” ever go:

Price is alone among mythicists in that there is no doubt that he was a qualified New Testament scholar. He therefore bears a most heavy responsibility for the falsehoods which he has promoted.

And what are these falsehoods? He dates the Gospel of Mark to the second century. He uses arguments with which Casey disagrees.

I recently asked his student, Stephanie Fisher, to support her accusation that a comment of mine was “littered with falsehoods”. Her reply sums up all that she and Casey are about.

Fundamentalist thinking

It is ironic that Casey should therefore accuse mythicists of “fundamentalist” thinking when he himself has such a black and white, right or wrong, view of scholarly debate. Example:

The criterion of not being mentioned in other texts is an important mythicist weapon. It embodies the fundamentalist assumption that the Gospels should have become sacred texts immediately . . . .

For Casey (as I have shown in previous posts in this series) is capable of very black and white fundamentalist thinking. Knibb gives “correct” arguments for dating the Ascension of Isaiah. Therefore anyone who disagrees is “ludicrous” or “false”. I don’t understand how such an attitude towards learning and scholarly debate ever manages to survive in academia. Does he have any self-doubts at all?

Casey characterizes atheist mythicists as being on an anti-Christian vendetta and therefore by definition as hopelessly biased and wilfully deceitful in anything they argue. And even the sins of their past forever shadow them in Casey’s fantasies. Thus though Earl Doherty has been an atheist since the age of nineteen, he was once a Roman Catholic, so Casey finds a way to insinuate that Doherty’s arguments are somehow an unhealthy carryover from Catholicism:

Another astonishing example is Doherty imagining that Paul should have behaved like much later Christians seeking relics. He . . . . seeks to impose upon Pauline Christianity the mediaeval Catholic religion which Doherty is supposed to have left.

It might be instructive to know more of Casey’s own personal history with his past religion. I understand Casey’s father was a rector of St Giles Church in Durham and that Maurice took theology as his first degree, lost his faith and then took up classics because he thought it would improve his employment prospects. Is there an explanation here for his defence of Christianity and loathing of “atheists” he accuses of denigrating Christian piety despite his own self-exile from the faith?

He certainly demonstrates little interest in actually getting to know those he assails beyond identifying their past affiliations and the fact that they are now atheists.

. . . . Neil Godfrey, an Australian who was a baptised member of the Worldwide Church of God for 22 years, so he belonged to a hopelessly fundamentalist organisation which holds critical scholarship in contempt. He converted to ‘atheism’ later, so he has had two conversion experiences, and this means that his contempt for evidence and argument as means of reaching decisions about important matters is doubly central to his life.

Once again we have evidence that Casey is being fed what he wants to hear and has not done his own research. Had he read my own explanation of the process by which I became an atheist in the same sites from which his other information comes he could not with any honesty portray my eventual embrace of atheism as “a conversion experience”. As for his assertion that I hold “evidence and argument as means of reaching decisions about important matters” in “contempt” — well, anyone who reads this blog and my own accounts of why and how I left “the faith” and became an atheist can see for themselves the facts of the matter.

Caught out in the corn fields

Casey takes the most space to defend his academic contributions against a post of mine in which I believe I demolished one of his arguments for a story in the Gospel of Mark having an Aramaic source. Now this is where it gets interesting at last. Finally I have before me Casey’s response to an argument of mine.

So I will quote Casey’s response and reply to points throughout:

I am well known to some people for my work on Aramaic sources behind the synoptic Gospels, for careful scholarship, and for always telling the truth as I see it.[41] On the internet, however, I have been accused by Blogger Godfrey, Blogger Carr and others of total incompetence, omitting main points and telling lies. For example, Blogger Godfrey, in a blog entitled with his customary politesse, Roll over Maurice Casey: Latin, not Aramaic, explains Mark’s bad Greek, not only drew attention to a certain proportion of these ‘Latinisms’, which would have been reasonable, but also declared that they nullified the evidence of Aramaic influence on Mark.[42]

Well, to be fair, I did qualify my claim for what I had “proven” about his case. I was reluctant to claim that my one-point argument overthrew his entire case. I wrote:

If this list [of Latinisms] has any credibility, then Casey’s learned argument, at least with reference to this particular instance, collapses.

This is quite incompetent, which is why, as far as I know, it had not previously been suggested. Nor is Greek which contains Latin loanwords for Roman objects ‘bad’ Greek, any more than we speak ‘bad’ English when we say we went to a restaurant. Mark’s Latinisms, including loanwords, in no way undermine the importance of Mark’s Aramaisms, which Blogger Godfrey is not learned enough to see, and determined to ignore.

Casey is bypassing my argument here. He must be warming up to it. I actually presented my main argument in full in an earlier post before I chanced upon the list of Latinisms in Mark. When I stumbled upon this list I realized I had found evidence that added a lot of weight to my original point.

Besides, the argument is not about loanwords but whether or not the Greek in Mark 2:23 is a literal translation of a Latin or a (misunderstood) Aramaic phrase.

My post contradicted Casey’s claim that certain types of irregularities in Mark’s translations of Aramaic should be explained by Mark being a bilingual who was not 100% competent in either Greek or Aramaic; I argued that there was a much simpler explanation for Mark’s “irregularities” that undermined one of Casey’s case-studies.

Blogger Godfrey does not refer to any learned scholarship, but to an elementary piece from a second-rate and very conservative American Christian college, formerly Atlantic Baptist College, then (1996) Atlantic Baptist University, now named Crandall University. It does not have any outstanding New Testament scholars on its staff. This is yet another piece of evidence that Blogger Godfrey is quite incapable of leaving his fundamentalist Christian background behind, in spite of his conversion to an equally dogmatic form of atheism.

Wow! Casey never misses an opportunity for the old ad hominem. But what a judgement! I have already made my full argument in a previous post. By chance I subsequently find a website of fundamentalist provenance, am intrigued by some information on it that has nothing to do with fundamentalist belief or ideology and that Casey himself later says is “satisfactory”, find a detail I find relevant to my earlier argument, and Wham! I’m suddenly demonstrating some “incapability of leaving my fundamentalist Christian background behind”!

The list of Latinisms provided by Crandall ‘University’ includes loanwords, by which standard it is incomplete, but otherwise satisfactory. They are all included in the more extensive list provided by Gundry in his standard conservative commentary.[43]

Blogger Godfrey does not mention that the Introduction from which he quotes also argues that Mark’s first language was Aramaic.

No, I did not mention that the Introduction from which I quoted “also argued that Mark’s first language was Aramaic”, and there were three reasons for this:

(1) I linked to the article itself so that anyone interested could see for themselves all the details of the original;

(2) Since my core argument stands whether or not Aramaic was the native language of the author of the gospel, there was no need to repeat this detail;

(3) and the Introduction offers only the qualified case that Mark’s first language was “probably” Aramaic, so Casey is overstating when he says the source “argues that Mark’s first language was Aramaic”:

From the above data, one can infer that the author’s first language was not Greek, and he did not have a Hellenistic education, so that he did not have enough facility in Greek to write in a highly literary style. The Semitic features of the Gospel of Mark probably indicate that the mother tongue of the author was a Semitic language (probably Aramaic), which is consistent with his being a Palestinian Jew.

Blogger Carr commented,

‘Casey, of course, knows perfectly well that there are Latin loan words in ‘Mark’….Naturally, he is a True Biblical Scholar so does not inform his readers that there are any Latin loan words in ‘Mark’…As it would detract from the idea that there were Aramaic sources for Greek, detectable by the bad Greek, Casey does not even mention the prescence (sic!) of Latin loan words….A real scholar mentions facts which might seem to other scholars to put his work into question, and attempts to answer those questions…This is what I am used to when I see scientists writing. I naively took it for granted that all scholars in all fields had the same sorts of standards as the lowliest scientific researcher into the memory of mice…. I now have entered a world where True Bible Scholars simply ignore whatever does not fit their ideas.’[44]

Everything is wrong with this. It is not true that I did not even mention the presence of Latin loanwords. I discussed the ones which I thought were of genuine historical significance, and I gave a significant amount of Roman background to some of these, where I thought this was of historical significance. I therefore discussed legiōn and Hērōdianoi at some length, as well as, more briefly, denarius, and centurion.[45]

Blogger Casey did not read Blogger Carr’s very next comment — in which he corrected himself when he discovered Casey had after all discussed a Latinism — and that was posted a minute after the comment Casey quoted. But Carr’s point stands given that Casey only raises Latinisms incidentally, late in the argument, and does indeed fail to lay out all the scholarly views for his readers before presenting his own case.

Blogger Carr’s comments on scholarly practice are irrelevant too, apart from his crude and misleading use of the term ‘bad’ Greek. The idea that Mark’s Latinisms, understood broadly to include his Latin loanwords, somehow negate the evidence of his use of Aramaic sources is not a theory put forward by reputable scholars: it is a mistake by blogger Godfrey.

How is it that a learned scholar views alternative arguments as “mistakes” — usually motivated by nefarious atheistic motives — and not as arguments to be dealt with on their own merits? Why is something that has not been argued before by “reputable scholars” by definition a “mistake”? As for my “crude and misleading use of the term ‘bad’ Greek”, oh dear — I have been reading way too many commentaries on Mark that seem to say just that about Mark’s Greek!

Learned articles on the memory of mice or anything else do not discuss the outpourings of incompetent bloggers. Nor can they discuss anything suggested after their articles were published: blogger Godfrey’s notion that ‘Latin, not Aramaic, explains Mark’s bad Greek’ was not available to me when I wrote, precisely because no-one else had been incompetent and foolish enough to suggest it.

When is Casey going to stop calling my question incompetent and foolish and begin to answer it? He’s sure taking a long time to warm up to addressing my actual point.

I hope this is sufficient to indicate that the mythicist view is based on ineducable ignorance, prejudice and absolute contempt for anything like learned scholarship.

What on earth? The Aramaic-Latin argument is hardly a “mythicist view”. Casey knows there are other scholars he has failed to persuade with his Aramaic argument — would he accuse them of arguing “the mythicist view”?

Now I’m “ineducable”? Ignorant? Prejudiced? Hold learned scholarship in absolute contempt? All because I propose a new argument against one of Casey’s? My, my! I’m glad he’s not my teacher. Do all his students turn out like Steph?

But hang on? Where did Emeritus Professor Maurice Casey stop to actually address my argument? That’s what I thought he was about to do.

I thought my argument was a pretty good one, too, even if Casey does say none of his peers have ever made it before.

In brief it is this:

A recurring theme throughout Mark’s Gospel is “the way” of the Lord. From the opening lines we are introduced to the theme of “Make a (path or high-)way for the Lord”.

Mark found a way to weave this theme into his pericope about Jesus and the disciples being accosted by the Pharisees in the cornfields on the sabbath. To this end he constructed a somewhat awkward Greek phrase that meant “make one’s way” — which I later discovered was very likely a literal translation of a Latin phrase.

Casey’s argument for an Aramaic source, on the other hand, is that Mark’s Greek was a mistranslation of an Aramaic phrase meaning “walk or go along”.

I believe my argument is the better one. It is simpler to interpret Mark’s awkward Greek as a literal translation of a Latin phrase (given the other Latinisms in the Gospel) than to argue Mark misread or misunderstood an Aramaic word meaning something else.

I made the argument in full in my earlier post, “Make a Path”: Maurice Casey’s evidence of an Aramaic source for Mark’s Gospel, or Creative Fiction? It was only later I chanced upon the Latin phrase apparently behind Mark’s awkward Greek to make his point and I took this as a strengthening of my argument.

Or is the emeritus professor behaving like one of those closed-minded bloggers he complains about when faced with a serious and cogent argument against one of his own — especially since that cogent rebuttal of his own argument comes from an internet source he holds in “absolute contempt”?

Now, that’s enough of bloggers Casey and Steph. Let’s move on to something interesting next time — a discussion of Michael Novenson’s “Christ Among the Messiahs“. (And no, I do not hate Matthew Novenson because he is as scholar – I actually am fascinated by what he writes; and though I use quotation marks around the title I can assure you I really have read the book. It’s just that I do find typing quotation marks much quicker than converting the title to italics on my keyboard.)

2 Comments

  • Henk
    2012-06-12 21:07:28 UTC - 21:07 | Permalink

    Neil, some people have a very bizarre idea what great discussion is. In their attempt to undermine others, they dismiss the tools that they have for verification…for what has essentially been a month or so of spats ever since Bart published.

    If they are all really giving academic discourse; they certainly aren’t enjoying themselves.

    Please don’t ever infuriate them.

    I look forward to your normally great posts.

  • Pingback: Vridar » Casey’s Calumny Continued: Response Concluded

  • Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *