2012-07-29

Larry Hurtado’s Wearying (and Irresponsible?) Encore

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by Neil Godfrey

Larry Hurtado’s initial response to my post did not offer any expectation that he might engage with the larger argument I made. I was surprised to find him refer to it as a post about him (personally) and mystified as to how he could interpret my reference to “some scholars” engaging in insult and ridicule as a descriptor of his approach. I only used his initial post as an example to segue into a more general discussion about the difficulty even scholars (or especially scholars) and others generally often have in listening to the arguments of the Christ Myth theory with any seriousness. But he did attract some discussion from others commenting on his blog post.

I did not read all the comments there — I am unfortunately sometimes pushed to read all the comments on my own blog — so I cannot tell the extent to which his reactions expressed in his follow up post, The “Did Jesus Exist” Controversy–Encore, were justified.

But I will make a few general remarks here. I welcome Larry’s thoughts if he is at all inclined to respond.

No knowledge of the central thesis

He epitomizes what he sees as some “foundations” of the Christ Myth theory:

We’ve had examples of the erroneous, but confidently asserted, claims on which the “mythicist” stance seems to rest. E.g., no evidence of Nazareth as a real village (cf., e.g., J. L. Reed, Archareology and the Galilean Jesus, 131-32; J. L. Rousseau & R. Arav, Jesus and His World, 214-16); or that a figure called “Jesus” was an object of religious devotion before early Christianity (no evidence of this at all); or that statements in Paul’s letters about Jesus’ brothers were later interpolations (no text-critical support or in scholarship on these texts), etc.

If this is the impression Hurtado has gained about the “claims on which the ‘mythicist’ stance seems to rest” then it is very clear he has not himself read mythicist arguments. Perhaps he is relying on incidental blog comments to form a judgment about the entire theory. It is clear he has never been interested enough to read works by Price, Doherty, Carrier, Wells, Couchoud, and such, on the question. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course. But if I only know of something from what I hear on media news bytes or popular gossip or brief articles, I would never think to engage in a serious discussion or form an opinion about it — least of all psychoanalyse anyone over it.

Presumption of conspiracy beliefs

He then brings up the tired old conspiratorial underpinnings of mythicism:

Perhaps the most puzzling claim, that would be amusing were it not apparently asserted so seriously, is that sometime in the 1980s a massive conspiracy (by “New Evangelical” interests) engineered the appointment of scholars in departments of Religion, Classics, Ancient History, etc., and that it managed to skew scholarly opinion, even among Jewish scholars and people of no religious affiliation, to support the historical existence of a Jesus of Nazareth. Hmm. That’s right up there with the notion that the Twin Towers were destroyed by the CIA! (Is there something in the drinking water nowadays in some places?) Certainly, many of those who have engaged the current “mythicist” issue (e.g., Maurice Casey) would be surprised to learn that their views have been shaped ingeniously without their knowing it by this “New Evangelical” cabal eager to prop up traditional Christianity!

Maybe some people who argue for Jesus not having had historical existence do point to conspiracy. But none of the scholars or authors I mentioned above do. And I certainly don’t. Then again, some believers in the historical Jesus believe there is a vast demoniacally inspired conspiracy at work right now to bring about the rise of an anti-christ etc etc. I have even read Dr McGrath saying he would not be surprised if behind the popularity of Creationism there was an atheist conspiracy. I don’t, because of those people, think that all believers in a historical Jesus are conspiracy theorists.

At the same time, however, there is no question that, especially since the centre of biblical studies has shifted from Europe to America since the Second World War, conservative and evangelical Christians have become even more influential in the field. Many scholars do have some form of confessional interest. Of course there are atheists and agnostics in the field, too. But it is nonsensical to say that the field has been free from personal religious interests. Scholars within the field itself such as Hector Avalos and James Crossley have made this very clear with their publications.

The need for psychoanalysis

Then comes the psychoanalysis:

But it’s an interesting sociological (or pycho-social) question as to what makes some people feel the need (and it does seem to be a need) to exert such efforts to go against the rather solid judgement of qualified scholars in the subject, whatever their religious persuasion. What is it that leads some to prefer the assertions of people with no established scholarly reputation or recognition in the disciplines in question? And why the zeal and fervor of some of those who buy into these assertions? Perhaps a good question for some graduate student in sociology.

This reminds me of the way the State in the Stalinist Soviet Union looked upon otherwise intelligent people who disagreed with Communist ideology. They were candidates for the insane asylum. The possibility that the Party line was founded on error was simply unthinkable. One only had to look at the array of brilliant minds upon which the entire edifice was founded.

Richard Hofstadter

Richard Hofstadter (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One commenter chimed in on this note with a reference to The Paranoid Style in American Politics by Richard Hofstadter. Apparently the commenter sees mythicists as been characterized by a “sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy” — characteristics of the “paranoid style” according to Hofstadter. Well, I’ve yet to see any of those traits in any of the works of authors I have mentioned above. None of that is part of the mythicism I am acquainted with. No doubt there are Christian believers or historical Jesus believers who argue a point with a “paranoid style”, too, but I would never say that Christians or those who argues for the historicity of Jesus are like that as a whole.

Earning the right to speak as an authority

But there is something else in that above paragraph by Hurtado that he expands upon in his closing words:

Anything is open to question, of course. But to engage the sort of questions involved in this discussion really requires one to commit to the hard work of learning languages, mastering textual analysis, text-critical matters, historical context of the ancient Roman period and the Jewish setting of the time, archaeology, and more. And we know when someone has done this when they prove it in the demands of scholarly disputation and examination, typically advanced studies reflected in graduate degrees in the disciplines, and then publications that have been reviewed and judged by scholarly peers competent to judge. That is how you earn the right to have your views taken as having some basis and some authority. I’m not an expert in virology, or astro-physics, or a number of other fields. So, I’ll have to operate in light of the judgements of those who are. Why should I distrust experts in a given subject? Why should I term it “intellectual bullying” if scholars in a given field asked about a given issue state the generally-held view in a straightforward manner, and ask for justification for rejecting it?

I have bolded some of the original.

This is a startling conclusion from a scholar who has taken notice of the question of whether or not Jesus did exist.

Does Larry Hurtado really believe that in order to prove that Jesus existed or to understand the proofs that he did that one needs to undertake advanced studies in languages, textual analysis, archaeology, etc, and to become a respected and published scholar in the field?

Does anyone believe that it is necessary to attain such qualifications in order to prove or understand the proofs that Julius Caesar or Socrates existed?

What I find particularly disturbing is that Hurtado even speaks of acquiring “a right” to having one’s views accepted as “having some basis” and being taken with “some authority”. Perhaps, here, is where we find the reason some scholars are offended when they find outsiders not duly accepting their claims about the existence of Jesus — on their “authority” or status as scholars. Is this why they are offended when outsiders want something that they can see holds water, is evidence-based, consistent and logical? Do some scholars feel that their “rights” to being treated as authorities are being violated?

I don’t know. It is just a thought and certainly I don’t know Larry Hurtado personally and I certainly do not impute any such thoughts to him. But what he wrote here is nonetheless disturbing.

Climate scientists do have a right to be heard and treated as authorities. But they also have a responsibility to make their findings, their arguments, their evidence, clear and understandable. They do not have a right to be believed simply on their say-so or on their word as if it were divine fiat. They have a responsibility to explain in ways the public can understand the reasons, the evidence, for their conclusions. Rights are only one side of the social contract. Public intellectuals also have public responsibilities.

What convinces me of evolution is not the status and academic reputations of biologists and palaeontologists. It is the arguments they present and share with the public. They are consistent, evidence-based and logical. I love reading popular science publications that explain clearly what scientists have discovered and what we now understand about the animal kingdom (including us), the cosmos, atomic physics, the ecosystems and more. I love reading good history books, too.

The view from outside

Let me add here a comment made by a commenter (Vinny) on this blog — he is not a mythicist but has described himself as occupying the “undecided” camp, if I recall correctly:

I like to think that I am a reasonably bright person. I graduated in the top 5% of my class from law school and I am an expert chess player. I took and passed the test for Mensa. I was able to follow Hawking’s A Brief History of Time without an advanced degree in physics. I have been able to follow the logic of Steven Pinker, Daniel Denett, Ronald Dworkin, Joseph Stiglitz, and Jared Diamond as well as other scholars without advanced training in their fields. I cannot do what they do, but I can generally understand how they use the evidence to reach their conclusions. For some reason, however, I’m not capable of figuring why New Testament scholars find the evidence so convincing because I don’t have enough training.

Here is another comment by a famous linguist:

To make all of this more concrete, let me comment in a very personal way: in my own professional work I have touched on a variety of different fields. I’ve done work in mathematical linguistics, for example, without any professional credentials in mathematics; in this subject I am completely self-taught, and not very well taught. But I’ve often been invited by universities to speak on mathematical linguistics at mathematics seminars and colloquia. No one has ever asked me whether I have the appropriate credentials to speak on these subjects; the mathematicians couldn’t care less. What they want to know is what I have to say. No one has ever objected to my right to speak, asking whether I have a doctor’s degree in mathematics, or whether I have taken advanced courses in this subject. That would never have entered their minds. They want to know whether I am right or wrong, whether the subject is interesting or not, whether better approaches are possible — the discussion dealt with the subject, not with my right to discuss it. . . . . .

In mathematics, in physics, people are concerned with what you say, not with your certification. But in order to speak about social reality, you must have the proper credentials, particularly if you depart from the accepted framework of thinking. Generally speaking, it seems fair to say that the richer the intellectual substance of a field, the less there is a concern for credentials, and the greater is the concern for content. One might even argue that to deal with substantive issues in the ideological disciplines may be a dangerous thing, because these disciplines are not simply concerned with discovering and explaining the facts as they are; rather, they tend to present these facts and interpret them in a manner that conforms to certain ideological requirements, and to become dangerous to established interests if they do not do so.

I am sure there is a lesson here for biblical scholars, custodians of surely one of the most ideological of all disciplines.

The problem seems to be that biblical scholars really have never proved the historicity of Jesus. This has always been assumed. If ever the question is raised it is conventionally settled with a few proof-texts — e.g. Paul met “the brother of the Lord”, Paul said the Son of God was made from a woman, no-one would make up a crucified messiah. But proof-texts have the unfortunate characteristic being able only to speak to the choir. If a new way of looking at the evidence in total calls into question the weight placed upon such proof-texts, it seems that too many scholars have traditionally retorted with nothing more intellectual than: “Look at my credentials. I have a right to be accepted as an authority.”

92 Comments

  • 2012-07-29 01:18:18 UTC - 01:18 | Permalink

    HURTADO
    But to engage the sort of questions involved in this discussion really requires one to commit to the hard work of learning languages, mastering textual analysis, text-critical matters, historical context of the ancient Roman period and the Jewish setting of the time, archaeology, and more. And we know when someone has done this when they prove it in the demands of scholarly disputation and examination, typically advanced studies reflected in graduate degrees in the disciplines, and then publications that have been reviewed and judged by scholarly peers competent to judge. That is how you earn the right to have your views taken as having some basis and some authority.

    CARR
    I guess that rules out people like Carrier, Doherty, Thompson, Price who have peer-reviewed publications, know ancient languages etc.

    Doherty has a BA with distinction in Ancient History and Classical Languages, and only stopped his MA for health reasons.

    But of course, Dr, Hurtado knows that.

    He is just telling his readers things which aren’t true. What’s wrong with that? It all helps bash mythicists.

    Why shouldn’t he claim there are no mythicists with the very qualifications he demands to see?

    Is anybody going to complain about his misrepresentations? No historicist is going to point out that mythicists have qualifications, at least without simultaneously saying that those qualifications do not entitle them to be heard on the subject.

  • Andrew
    2012-07-29 01:25:46 UTC - 01:25 | Permalink

    Hurtado asks, “But it’s an interesting sociological (or pycho-social) question as to what makes some people feel the need (and it does seem to be a need) to exert such efforts to go against the rather solid judgement of qualified scholars in the subject, whatever their religious persuasion. What is it that leads some to prefer the assertions of people with no established scholarly reputation or recognition in the disciplines in question?”

    Over half of the “qualified scholars” on this subject are confessing Christians who believe most or all of the Bible describes historical miracles and supernatural events, Genesis is true, etc. It’s funny how people like Hurtado or Ehrman never bring up this embarrassing fact about their field when defending the supposedly “solid judgement” of New Testament and Bible scholars. Scholarly reputation has to be earned, and mindlessly repeating the Eusebian orthodoxy as if it reflected actual history doesn’t deserve the respect of anyone who values truth and free inquiry.

    • Brian
      2012-07-29 16:38:55 UTC - 16:38 | Permalink

      An excellent point, Andrew.

  • 2012-07-29 06:01:25 UTC - 06:01 | Permalink

    Before I saw your post, I posted the following comment on Hurtado’s “Encore” post. I’ll be interested to see whether it clears moderation or whether he decides some “non-essentials” need to be edited out.

    I am a reasonably bright person. I’m an expert level chess player. I graduated near the top of my law school class. I passed the test for Mensa. I was able to follow Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time without an advanced degree in physics. I have read books by scholars in a wide variety of other fields like Steven Pinker, Daniel Denett, Ronald Dworkin, Joseph Stiglitz, and Jared Diamond and I have always been able to see how their conclusions follow from the evidence. I certainly don’t know what they know and I can’t do what they do, but my lack of advanced training has never prevented me from appreciating a convincing argument supported by evidence.

    One of my reasons for not placing the confidence in historical Jesus scholars that I place in other experts is their insistence that I should not expect to be able to think intelligently about a basic question like whether there is sufficient historical evidence to establish that Jesus existed without highly advanced training in esoteric areas. I have never encountered a comparable attitude in any other field. I cannot help but think that if it really takes all that training to understand the experts’ reasoning on such a basic issue, the evidence is probably not nearly as clear as they are claiming it is.

    • Fortigurn
      2012-07-29 11:16:36 UTC - 11:16 | Permalink

      “One of my reasons for not placing the confidence in historical Jesus scholars that I place in other experts is their insistence that I should not expect to be able to think intelligently about a basic question like whether there is sufficient historical evidence to establish that Jesus existed without highly advanced training in esoteric areas.”

      They don’t insist any such thing. You’re making things up.

      • 2012-07-30 05:48:05 UTC - 05:48 | Permalink

        But to engage the sort of questions involved in this discussion really requires one to commit to the hard work of learning languages, mastering textual analysis, text-critical matters, historical context of the ancient Roman period and the Jewish setting of the time, archaeology, and more. Larry Hurtado

        Am not!

        • Fortigurn
          2012-07-30 10:12:12 UTC - 10:12 | Permalink

          “Am not!”

          Yes you are. Hurtado never says ytou should not expect to be able to think intelligently about a basic question like whether there is sufficient historical evidence to establish that Jesus existed without highly advanced training in esoteric areas. You are Doing a Godfrey.

          Hurtado says ‘to engage the sort of questions involved in this discussion really requires one to commit to the hard work of learning languages, mastering textual analysis, text-critical matters, historical context of the ancient Roman period and the Jewish setting of the time, archaeology, and more’. All you are doing is demonstrating the Dunning-Kruger effect at work.

          • 2012-07-30 11:23:40 UTC - 11:23 | Permalink

            Hurtado referred to “the sort of questions involved in this discussion,” and he titled the discussion “The ‘Did Jesus Exist’ Controversy.” Therefore, I think that it is perfectly reasonable for me to interpret him as saying that I need the advanced training in order to think intelligently about whether Jesus existed. Are you just splitting hairs over the fact that he used the word “engage” while I used the phrase “think intelligently”? He seemed not to have any trouble understanding what I was saying.

            Since I am not claiming any particular competence in the field of historical Jesus studies, I cannot see that the Dunning-Kruger effect applies to me at all.

            • Fortigurn
              2012-07-30 11:35:17 UTC - 11:35 | Permalink

              “Hurtado referred to “the sort of questions involved in this discussion,” and he titled the discussion “The ‘Did Jesus Exist’ Controversy.” Therefore, I think that it is perfectly reasonable for me to interpret him as saying that I need the advanced training in order to think intelligently about whether Jesus existed.”

              Which part of ‘engage the sort of questions involved in this discussion’ are you interpreting as ‘think intelligently about whether Jesus existed’, and why?

              “Are you just splitting hairs over the fact that he used the word “engage” while I used the phrase “think intelligently”?”

              It’s not splitting hairs to point out you claim Hurtado said X, and he actually said Y. Your claim that he dismisses the possibility of you being able to think intelligently about whether Jesus existed gives him the appearance of saying you can’t voice an intelligent opinion on the subject. That is nothing like what he said.

              “Since I am not claiming any particular competence in the field of historical Jesus studies, I cannot see that the Dunning-Kruger effect applies to me at all.”

              I don’t think you understand what the Dunning-Kruger effect is (I provided a link). It has nothing to do with whether or not you claim particular competence in a field. And if you are not claiming any particular competence in the field of historical Jesus studies, then on what basis do you challenge the conclusions of those who are competent? If I give you a list of contested issues in the field of historical Jesus studies, how many will you be able to engage competently? I have a list right here, so let me know.

              • 2012-07-30 12:21:08 UTC - 12:21 | Permalink

                Did you read the link that you provided? Most of the indicators refer to how a person rates his own competence and expertise in a field.

    • Brettongarcia
      2012-07-29 17:49:24 UTC - 17:49 | Permalink

      Hurtado’s argument is even a formal Fallacy of Logic: known as “the Argument from Authority.”

      I find that religious folks use that fallacy often. Which makes sense: the whole orientation of Christianity is to teach us to obey an authority figure, mostly on his own say-so. It’s not a coincidence that the name of the other great Abrahamic religion, Islam, means “submission.”

      Incidentally? Regarding the “paranoid theory” that New-Right, Theo Con trends in religious thinking influenced even “scholarship”? I next make the statement that after all, religious beliefs in the general culture motivate much behavior, and exert enormous social pressures, in many spheres. It wasn’t too long ago that if you made the wrong profession of faith in Europe, you could be burned to death at the stake. While to this day, such immense social pressures constantly distort religious “scholarship” and objectivity.

      That finally is my concluding assessment of the objectivity and “authority” of religious scholars. Whose field of study, by the way, has historically and “objectively” at times validated the existence of talking donkies, and people who walk on water.

      Today there’s a growing awareness that the Authority game is a kind of scam: you insist that the only standard of truth, is a book that only you have expertise in. Never mind lots of external evidence, that the Book just isn’t true, in all too many particulars.

  • 2012-07-29 12:48:51 UTC - 12:48 | Permalink

    I think you guys have the wrong idea sometimes. The historical study of Jesus is not like a field of science where something can be proven or disproven to a relatively certain degree. I am sure there are scholars who would say that there is not enough evidence to claim that Jesus’ historical existence is 100% certain. There is always some doubt in everything. What they are doing is saying that the evidence reveals a higher probability that Jesus existed than it does that he didn’t exist. And most people like to make affirmative decisions about things even if they do not have all the facts. Just like you guys do not believe Jesus existed even though you can not prove it definitively. You have made a decision based on the limited evidence. The scholars you wish to convince have also made their decisions as well. Put yourself in their shoes for a minute, would you be willing to sit quietly and let one of these scholars try to convince you to see things their way? I know some of you will say you have done that, but the reality is that while you were listening or reading one of these scholars arguments, you were saying to yourself, this is complete nonsense, he has it all wrong. And you were thinking how you would respond to this argument to show why he is wrong. This is done on both sides because there are two opposing ideologies at work here. And I repeatedly hear the claim that scholars do not fully understand or refute the arguments of the Jesus myth. Well that is because as far as I can see, your arguments are not understandable from scholars ideological point of view. For instance, the various claims of conjectural emendation where no corruption currently exists. The only reason to change an uncontested text is because it does not conform to an established ideology. Sure, you might have reasons for believing the text was altered, but that is only conjecture when the actual evidence is right there on the page. So you are asking scholars to reject the actual evidence in favor of a proposed conjecture. This was just one example why a scholar would say that this argument is ludicrous.

    You guys have the right to believe whatever you want, but what I do not understand is why you so desperately want your ideas to be accepted by the academic world. From my perspective, that would be similar to a couple of Scientologists walking into a fundamentalist church hoping to become members while retaining their Scientology beliefs.

    • 2012-07-29 17:21:05 UTC - 17:21 | Permalink

      HOWARDMA
      There is always some doubt in everything.

      CARR
      So the best analogy Hurtado can come up with is to compare mythicism to denying that America went to the moon?

      After all, I’m sure Dr. Hurtado would say there is some doubt that America went to the moon.

      HOWARDMA
      For instance, the various claims of conjectural emendation where no corruption currently exists.

      CARR
      Have you heard Ehrman debate?

      Bart Ehrman just loves claiming that the text is uncertain.

      Whenever it suits him to do that…. (ie when he is not talking to mythicists

      EHRMAN
      Can we trust that the copies of Galatians we have are the original copies. No. We don’t know.

      How could we possibly know?

      Our earliest copy of Galatians is p46 which dates from the year 200. Paul wrote this letter in the 50’s. The first copy that we have is 150 years later. Changes were made all along the line before this first copy was made.

      How can we possibly know that in fact it is exactly as Paul wrote it. Is it possible that somebody along the line inserted a verse?

      Yes. Is it possible that someone took out a verse? Yes.

      Is it possible that somebody changed a lot of the words? Yes.

      Is it possible that the later copies were made from one of the worst of the early copies? Yes. It’s possible.

      CARR
      In fairness, I must point out that Ehrman refuses to consider the possibility of interpolation when he is talking to mythicists.

      He only claims the text is very uncertain when he is not talking to mythicists.

      • 2012-07-29 17:49:02 UTC - 17:49 | Permalink

        Can you give an online source for Ehrman’s lesson on textual transmission here?

        • 2012-07-29 18:23:49 UTC - 18:23 | Permalink

          http://ehrmanblog.org/the-text-of-the-new-testament-are-the-textual-traditions-of-other-ancient-works-relevant/

          Ehrman then scoffs at the idea that anybody might think the text has been changed. ‘There is no reason to think the text may have been changed’ is the gist of what he says.

          • 2012-07-29 18:50:02 UTC - 18:50 | Permalink

            I love this sort of precious allusion to the exalted authority of “the trained scholar” that so often seems to waft around discussions like this:

            First, it is not true that scholars are confident that they know exactly what Plato, Euripides, or Homer wrote, based on the surviving manuscripts. In fact, as any trained classicist will tell you, there are and long have been enormous arguments about all these writings. Most people don’t know about these arguments for the simple reason that they are not trained classicists.

            I’m by no means a trained classicist. I studied a full year’s unit on classical Greece as part of my B.A. That’s where I learned that there are questions about the textual debates over classical literature. Any educated lay person with a general interest in the topic can learn about this sort of thing. It is quite precious for scholars to suggest that their gems are the preserve of the elite. All Ehrman has to say for the benefit of others who may not have had any knowledge of the wider world of classical literature is that we know the manuscripts have been interpolated and otherwise corrupted in varying degrees throughout their transmission. There is no need to pat his lay readers on their pointy heads and imply they are struggling to have any idea of what the issues really are.

      • Fortigurn
        2012-07-29 18:27:23 UTC - 18:27 | Permalink

        “In fairness, I must point out that Ehrman refuses to consider the possibility of interpolation when he is talking to mythicists. He only claims the text is very uncertain when he is not talking to mythicists.”

        You provide no evidence for this claim. The real issue is that mythicists typically claim interpolation when it is convenient for their argument. even when there is no text critical evidence, and even when the text is not considered by professional textual critics to be uncertain.

        • 2012-07-29 18:39:38 UTC - 18:39 | Permalink

          You provide no evidence for this claim.

          • Fortigurn
            2012-07-29 18:47:11 UTC - 18:47 | Permalink

            Are you not aware of the passages in the New Testament, in Josephus, and in Tacitus, which mythicists have claimed or suggested are interpolations despite there being no text critical evidence for an interpolation, and even when the text is not considered by professional textual critics to be uncertain? If you really don’t know, then I will list them for you. First tell me if you really don’t actually know, or if you’re just trolling. I would find that level of ignorance incredible in someone who claims to be as well read on the subject as you do.

            • 2012-07-30 06:04:02 UTC - 06:04 | Permalink

              Ah, the grim F once again writes as if he never meant what he wrote in the first place — if only I read in between the lines and overlooked the plain message he was conveying. Of course what F wrote was that “mythicists typically claim interpolation etc”. But now when pushed for evidence that word “claim” (implying to everyone else that they rely upon interpolation to make their case) is expanded to include “or suggest”. And of course any text critical arguments by mythicists are rejected because they are not from the pens of “professional textual critics” — even if other New Testament scholars do make the same arguments since it will turn out that they are not dedicated “professional textual critics”. And the focus is no longer on what “mythicists typically” do but on the range of passages that have been the subject of some argument or even suggestion over the years by a range of others — overlooking that most of these are or have been also subject of interpolation questions among scholars, too.

              What F needs to do to aspire to credibility is to cite evidence that “mythicists typically claim for convenience. . . .”– that is, not argue text critically, merely claim, and that this is done “typically” — that is, that nearly all mythicists (only a few exceptions allowed) base their cases (not merely suggest incidentally) on unsupported claims about interpolations.

              • Fortigurn
                2012-07-30 10:18:15 UTC - 10:18 | Permalink

                “Of course what F wrote was that “mythicists typically claim interpolation etc”. But now when pushed for evidence that word “claim” (implying to everyone else that they rely upon interpolation to make their case) is expanded to include “or suggest”.”

                No, not at all. I said both ‘claim’ and ‘suggest’, and differentiated between the two. I did not conflate the one with the other. I said mythicists typically claim interpolation when it is convenient for their argument. even when there is no text critical evidence, and even when the text is not considered by professional textual critics to be uncertain. Since you are disputing that claim, I am asking you if you are genuinely unaware of mythicists ever doing so. Yes or no?

                “What F needs to do to aspire to credibility is to cite evidence that “mythicists typically claim for convenience. . . .”– that is, not argue text critically, merely claim, and that this is done “typically” — that is, that nearly all mythicists (only a few exceptions allowed) base their cases (not merely suggest incidentally) on unsupported claims about interpolations.”

                No I don’t, because that is not what I said. You have added ‘not argue text critically, merely claim’, and ‘base their cases not merely suggest incidentally’, and given a peculiar meaning to ‘typically’ (which in your view means ‘nearly all’).

                You are not addressing what I wrote. Here it is again; “mythicists typically claim interpolation when it is convenient for their argument. even when there is no text critical evidence, and even when the text is not considered by professional textual critics to be uncertain”. Are you really going to dispute this?

              • Brettongarcia
                2012-07-30 17:43:45 UTC - 17:43 | Permalink

                Provide an example.

        • 2012-07-29 19:02:08 UTC - 19:02 | Permalink

          ‘The real issue is that mythicists typically claim interpolation when it is convenient for their argument’

          I see ‘Fortigurn’ is spreading vitriol and mud.

          Doherty rarely claims a text actually has 100% been interpolated, without producing a professional textual critic who agrees.

          And, of course, I backed up my claim that Ehrman only says there is no reason to suspect interpolation when he talks to mythicists by providing a link to a conversation Ehrman had with a mythicist where he agrees that the text is uncertain and then says there is no reason to think it has been changed.

          I look forward to Fortigurn’s next post where he will engage in semantic nit-picking , trying to prove black is white, by cherry-picking isolated phrases, when anybody can read the link I gave and see Ehrman trying to dance his way out of his own words.

          • Fortigurn
            2012-07-29 19:07:52 UTC - 19:07 | Permalink

            You have not provided any evidence that Ehrman refuses to consider the possibility of interpolation when talking to mythicists, and only claims the text is very uncertain when he is not talking to mythicists. In the exchange to which you linked only one passage was in question, Galatians 4:4. As Ehrman pointed out, there is no textual critical evidence of an interpolation, and the text is considered sound. That is an example of precisely what I am talking about.

            “Doherty rarely claims a text actually has 100% been interpolated, without producing a professional textual critic who agrees.”

            It’s not enough to provide ‘a professional textual critic who agrees’. Cherry picking and fringe views do not constitute evidence. But at least you acknowledge (if tacitly), that Doherty sometimes claims a text has “100% been interpolated” even when no professional textual critic agrees. Of course this does not address directly what I wrote. Please read what I wrote.

            • Grog
              2012-07-29 23:31:29 UTC - 23:31 | Permalink

              Fortigurn on Gal 4:4: “As Ehrman pointed out, there is no textual critical evidence of an interpolation, and the text is considered sound. That is an example of precisely what I am talking about.”

              Point 1: I do not think that Doherty relies on an interpolation argument when it comes to Galatians 4:4. Does he? If so, please provide a citation for us. I do think he raises it as one possibility but does not rest his case there. Correct me if I am wrong.

              Point 2: I will quote the esteemed R Joseph Hoffmann:

              “It is sometimes pointed out that Paul makes reference (Galatians 4.4) to Jesus having “been born of a woman, under the law,” but it is widely believed that these words are an insertion into the text of Galatians:”

              http://rjosephhoffmann.wordpress.com/2009/05/15/the-jesus-tomb-debacle-rip/

              So here we have a trained scholar saying exactly what you claim Doherty falsely claims. Wow, it gets confusing out there, doesn’t it/

              • Fortigurn
                2012-07-29 23:41:58 UTC - 23:41 | Permalink

                Grog,

                1. I have not said that Doherty rests his entire case for Galatians 4:4 on an interpolation argument. Please read what I wrote if you want to find out what I did say.

                2. You are helpfully reinforcing my point; Hoffman is not a professional text critic. When you can list all the people to whom he refers when he says ‘it is widely believed that these words are an insertion into the text of Galatians’, let me know. The judgment of the professional textual critics comprising the committee for the 27th edition of the Nestle-Aland text (NA27/UBS4), is that the text is certain. Metzger’s accompanying commentary does not even mention any debate about the verse.

                You have not addressed what I wrote.

              • Brettongarcia
                2012-07-30 18:27:07 UTC - 18:27 | Permalink

                FORT:

                Is Paul’s reference to Jesus “born of a woman” in Gal. 4.4 for example, an important objection to Mythicists, and their contention that Paul is say, spiritual, cosmic, and not about a physical, historical Jesus? Is it wrong of Mythicists to claim (if they do) that Gal. 4.4 is an “interpolation”? Etc.

                1) A Mythicist, the same as a professional text critic, looks at the text from a larger, particular paradigmatic model. In this case, one which finds that overwhelmingly, the pattern in Paul is this: Paul seldom speaks about the details of Jesus’ life, or offers many direct quotes from Jesus, etc.; instead, Paul in effect quotes Plato’s Theory of Forms (in say Hebrews 8.5). So next, the Mythicist therefore acts the same as any other text critic: he notes the prevailing pattern, and turns his attention to those one or two examples of text that appear to be anomalies. Suggesting they are indeed, quite anomalous.

                2) Beyond that however, I and others have argued against attaching much import to Gal. 4.4 – and without invoking the notion they are “interpolations” at all. I noted that the NT often a) metaphoricalized such terms as “brother”” and even “mother.” And b) Paul in effect noted that biological heirs, being biologically Jewish, was not necessary to be considered a son of God, and heir to the promises from God, to his followers. Paul therefore explicitly de-emphasizing the importance of biological heritage.

                Most importantly, I have noted that c) Jesus himself is pictured in one passage even in the gospels, leaving his biological mother and brothers standing outside; and asserting that his followers, not his bio family, are his true mothers and brothers and sisters. In this context, Jesus tells us that if we do not “hate” our biological brothers and so forth, we will not enter the kingdom of heaven (Luke 14.26). Then Jesus metaphoricalized brothers and so forth thoroughly, to the point that Jesus insisted that biological relations are not important (Luke 8.20 ff):

                “Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him for the crowd. And he was told, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.’ But he said to them, ‘My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.'” (Luke 8.19-21).

                So I’m noting that even Jesus himself in the gospels, rejected the importance of biological “mother”s and “brothers,” explicitly. So that? Historicists attaching much importance and solidity to references to “James the brother of Jesus,” or “born of a woman,” are (as Carrier noted somewhere), Historicists insising on the physical provinance of Jesus are curiously, perversely acting out of accordance with even the gospel words of Jesus. Jesus, the larger text of the NT, tells us often, that such relations are unimportant. Compared to the larger, “spiritual” family.

                3) A look at the larger context of the entire New Testament therefore finds that any apparent reference to biological heirs, is anomalous; is often explicitly attacked; and is rather thoroughly metaphoricalized.

                Historicists’ insistence on the physicality of Jesus therefore, their attachment to especially apparent references to a physical family for jesus especially, are theologically perverse, and decontextual; given the New Testament’s constant insistance that such links and ties are unimportant, compared to spiritual affiliation.

                4) By the way? There were many reasons that the biological family was minimized in the NT. The first was historically so that a) gentiles who were not biologically descended from Jews could still be considered as part of God’s “family”; but then also b) to counter eventual attempts to turn Christianity into an inherited monarchy; where the ruler of the church was supposed to always be a literal, biological heir or grandson of Jesus himself.

                The Historicist fixation on “born of woman” and “brother of Jesus” therefore, violates scholarly procedure; which looks for the larger, prevailing patterns and contexts. Indeed, given the larger theological context of such terms, the historicist insistence on the real, biological status of Jesus is … theologically and historically perverse.

              • 2012-07-30 18:54:20 UTC - 18:54 | Permalink

                Whatever Jesus may have said or taught about his family is irrelevant to the question of whether or not it is a fact that he had a family ar all.

              • Brettongarcia
                2012-07-30 20:23:03 UTC - 20:23 | Permalink

                I agree. Though for convenience of discussion, I sometimes speak of the “Jesus” of the Bible as an authority, and/or a real person.

                In any case? Whether we think of Jesus as 1) real, or 2) fiction? In either case, “Jesus” as presented in the Bible … himself minimizes the importance of real, physical families, specifically.

              • Brettongarcia
                2012-07-31 06:56:51 UTC - 06:56 | Permalink

                And I suggest to Larry Hurtado, that Jesus denying the importance of a family, does not logically imply, as one might think, that Jesus really HAD a family.

                Jesus might be 1) denying a hypothetical. Or 2) warning us that apparently real written descriptions of family, even in the gospels, are not to be taken as even, real. But perhaps are entirely metaphorical. Taken as symbols for spiritual things.

                Jesus’ attack on the importance of his apparent Family therefore, not only warns that the stress on family by Historicists is wrong; it does not even imply the actual existence of his family. The Jesus of the gospels could well be warning that even vivid family scenes in the gospels, are not only unimportant; but also therefore, illustory.

      • 2012-07-29 23:22:07 UTC - 23:22 | Permalink

        Well I don’t find the moon landing analogy very useful as a comparison either. If someone has enough money, they can rent or build a spacecraft and go to the moon and see the physical evidence that is suppose to be there. As far as I’m aware, no one has invented a time machine so we can do the same with Jesus.

        No I have not heard Ehrman’s debate, nor am I interested, I don’t put much stock into what Ehrman says when he goes beyond the facts, it’s just all conjecture. I also agree that Ehrman is inconsistent. I am always suspicious of anyone who would say that almost anything could happen to the text in the first 150 years, but then uses this supposed corrupted text to support his various opinions of Jesus.

        “Can we trust that the copies of Galatians we have are the original copies.”

        Like I said before, nothing is ever certain, but the question asks if we can “trust” the copies we have. I would say yes, and here are my reasons for believing we can.

        1. Yes, we do not have any manuscripts from the time of the original writings to about the year 200 CE. But from then on, the manuscripts for the next 1300 years have remained relatively the same. Yes, I am aware of the thousands of variant readings, but as you know most of them are inconsequential and some of the more important ones were usually unintentional. That leaves us with only a handful of missing verses etc., that are significant changes. And these changes span the entire range of the 1300 years. The important part is that 99% of these changes were at the very least, mistakes, and at the most, an attempt to further a particular doctrine. There is no evidence that anyone tried to define any new theology or biblical event. So we have to ask ourselves, why hasn’t nobody tried, and got away with, significantly altering the manuscripts in 1300 years?

        2. This one kind of answers number 1 above. When something is widely known and important, there is a kind of authority that watches over it. For example, if someone tried to significantly rewrite the Bible today, what would happen? They may succeed in getting it published, but no one would want it except for a small group that agreed with the changes. Then after a few years it would just die out of existence. I believe that is why the manuscripts have not been significantly altered in 1300 years, there is always people with authority there to condemn any changes to an already established textual tradition.

        So what about the first 150 years? I don’t know exactly how you believe these changes were done so I will have to cover a few options.

        1. Let us say Paul wrote the original Galatians around 50 CE. Then sometime after the Gospels were written around 100 CE, someone had the idea to add verses to Galatians in an attempt to say Paul was referring to the human man in the Gospels. So what was the situation? Was this a lone copyist altering the manuscript and it was accepted by other Christians without notice? Maybe it was the first time these Christians seen the letter to the Galatians, then nobody would have a clue as to what it originally said? Or was it the whole Christian community in that particular area? Either way, you would have to conclude that this one manuscript was the source for every manuscript we possess today, and that all other copies of Galatians from 50 CE to 100 CE died out and never created a transmission line of their own. The only alternative to this is that everyone who owned a copy of Galatians at that time made the same independent alterations. Maybe that would not be impossible, but highly doubtful, and even more amazing if there are no textual variants in these places.

        2. If people believed Paul actually wrote these letters and within them he claims he received divine knowledge, would this not mean that others took these letters as authoritative and that it would be sacrilege to add or take away from them? On the other hand, if people knew that Paul made it all up based mostly on the Jewish Hebrew scriptures, why would any gentile of the second century care enough about this subject to rewrite Paul and make it more Jewish, by taking a heavenly being with no earthly nationality and making him a Jewish man?

        I wont even get into the probability of unintentionally altering the quotations from the Septuagint.

        • 2012-07-30 02:38:24 UTC - 02:38 | Permalink

          There is a reason why we don’t have any extant manuscripts from before 200 AD: Marcion. Which pretty much refutes every single one of your points. Marcion did use Paul to create a new theology, and it’s pretty uncontroversial that the canon of the Catholic church is a reaction to Marcion’s canon. Just look at the reconstructions of Marcion’s version of Galatians and Romans. Evidencing the priority of Marcion’s Paul over the Catholic’s Paul is that many Catholic manuscripts of the Pauline corpus have Marcionite Prologues, meaning that these were originally Marcion’s versions of the letters but were doctored by the Catholics.

          100 – 200 AD was the battle between Marcionites and Catholics, and the battleground was interpolations in Paul. That’s why there are no manuscripts before 200 AD. And that’s the main reason (or should be the main reason) why proof-texting with Paul — e.g. “born of a woman” or “brother of the lord” — should be extremely suspect.

          • 2012-07-30 06:28:49 UTC - 06:28 | Permalink

            J. Quinton,

            “There is a reason why we don’t have any extant manuscripts from before 200 AD: Marcion.”

            How does this explain why we do not have any manuscripts before 200 AD? I don’t understand, were all previous manuscripts including Marcion’s destroyed? Please explain.

            “Which pretty much refutes every single one of your points. Marcion did use Paul to create a new theology. . .”

            I am not following you, if you are saying Marcion used Paul to create a new theology, that implies there was an old theology and that Marcion was the one who altered Paul’s texts. And like I said, both Marcion’s new theology and his manuscripts perished except for where they are quoted by the church fathers. It is obvious that his attempt to rewrite Paul’s letters eventually failed.

            “. . . and it’s pretty uncontroversial that the canon of the Catholic church is a reaction to Marcion’s canon.

            True, but so what? Marcion’s cannon also rejected the entire Hebrew Scriptures, So are you implying that Marcion had the original authoritative texts and we should also reject the entire Hebrew cannon?

            “Just look at the reconstructions of Marcion’s version of Galatians and Romans.”

            The key word here is “reconstructions” created by putting together bits and pieces from various church fathers many years after Marcion lived. Not a very trustworthy endeavor.

            “Evidencing the priority of Marcion’s Paul over the Catholic’s Paul is that many Catholic manuscripts of the Pauline corpus have Marcionite Prologues, meaning that these were originally Marcion’s versions of the letters but were doctored by the Catholics.”

            I really don’t see a strong connection here, the Catholic cannon also includes the apocrypha, what of it? The simple solution is that Marcion would have every reason to remove the verse about Jesus having a human mother since he did not believe Jesus was a real human, than the Catholic church would have to arbitrarily squeeze this verse in here when it could have done so in a more applicable setting.

        • 2012-07-30 03:32:44 UTC - 03:32 | Permalink

          howardma,

          The manuscripts we have mostly were produced by professional scribes at a time when the books were recognized as authoritative scripture, Christianity was the official religion of the state, and doctrine was determined by an establish church. We lack manuscripts for the period in which copying was unsupervised and Christianity was a minority religion composed of competing cults with sometimes dramatic differences in doctrine. We know that the variants increases in the earlier manuscripts so we can expect that the highest rate of variance occurred during the period in which we have virtually no manuscript evidence.

          I’m one of those people who thinks that it is somewhat silly even to talk about the autographs. The text of Galatians that we have tells us how Christians in 200 A.D understood Paul. They also represent our best guess of the words Paul actually wrote, but any argument that depends upon what Paul actually wrote is necessarily going to be subject to much less certainty than one that depends on how he was understood in 200 A.D.

          • 2012-07-30 07:24:38 UTC - 07:24 | Permalink

            Vinny,

            “The manuscripts we have mostly were produced by professional scribes at a time when the books were recognized as authoritative scripture, Christianity was the official religion of the state, and doctrine was determined by an establish church.”

            I would have to agree with this since it is basically what I said.

            “We lack manuscripts for the period in which copying was unsupervised and Christianity was a minority religion composed of competing cults with sometimes dramatic differences in doctrine.”

            Now this I might have a problem with accepting. The first thing that comes to mind is, if we have no manuscript evidence or anyone even quoting the scriptures at this time, how can you possibly know what was going on?

            “We know that the variants increases in the earlier manuscripts so we can expect that the highest rate of variance occurred during the period in which we have virtually no manuscript evidence.”

            I don’t think it is that simple. We have to remember that the Catholic church stopped using Greek manuscripts sometime after the Vulgate was produced. So it was only a certain portion of Christians that were using and making Greek manuscripts. So it is pretty easy to see that within a smaller circle of Greek speaking Christians, their manuscripts would have more conformity to their own textual tradition than it would when we compare these manuscripts to the earlier ones, which comprised more people from different cultures speaking Greek.

            “They also represent our best guess of the words Paul actually wrote, but any argument that depends upon what Paul actually wrote is necessarily going to be subject to much less certainty than one that depends on how he was understood in 200 A.D.”

            If these copyist from the second century were that free with Paul’s texts, they must not have viewed them as authoritative or sacred. Please explain to me how these un-inspired texts came to be viewed as inspired? I don’t know, this just seems to go against common sense. If copyist knew the texts were not authoritative then so did everybody else, why would they have agreed to be a part of a hated religious movement and even willing to die for it without an authoritative text?

            • 2012-07-30 09:10:28 UTC - 09:10 | Permalink

              howardma,

              The author of 2 Thessalonians warns his readers about a letter in circulation that is falsely attributed to Paul. Indeed, many scholars think that 2 Thessalonians itself was such a letter. From this we know that from an early point there were people who would try to further their personal theological agenda by attributing things to Paul that he hadn’t actually written. This suggests to me that Paul was recognized as an authoritative teacher even before his letters came to be accepted as inspired scripture.

              It is true that we can’t be certain what happened during the first 150 years of copying of Galatians. I do recall some scholar saying that the evidence shows that the first 100 years of any ancient text is when the biggest changes occur, but I would have to dig that quote out. To me, not knowing whether the texts were altered is almost as big a problem as knowing that they were. In neither case are we warranted in thinking that we have the originals.

              • 2012-07-30 10:31:14 UTC - 10:31 | Permalink

                Vinny,

                I agree that anything is possible regarding situations where we have very little information. And it is human nature to wonder about what really happened. In the case of the NT manuscripts we have no manuscript evidence for the first 100 to 150 years. All we have is the outcome of what happened during that time, that is the evidence. Now there is a bunch of circumstantial evidence that can infer that the text may have been significantly altered, but there is no direct evidence for this claim. One can just as easily infer that the text we have today is essentially the text that was first written. There will be no definitive answer to this question until a first century manuscript is found. In the mean time it is like asking what the missing numbers are in the following equation, X+12 = Y. Where the number 12 represents the manuscripts we do possess, and X represents what happened during the first 150 years, and Y represents what the original writings said. We will never know the answer until we reveal either X or Y. So we can either stay in a state of doubt or we can make a determination based on the available evidence. My determination is that X=0 meaning nothing out of the ordinary happened, no alterations and my formula is now 0 + 12 = 12, the original writings are the same as the manuscripts. Now the other determination would be something like X=3, and the formula now reads 3 + 12 = 15, indicating that there were alteration sand the manuscripts (12) that we do have, do not equal the originals (15), somewhat altered. But for now it is just a guessing game. But if we use the reasoning that is used in other fields such as science, the most logical approach is to go with the strongest evidence available, until that can be overturned. And in my opinion, the strongest evidence is the actual manuscripts we do possess that only differ up to an acceptable percentage. Unless you can demonstrate that your evidence is stronger.

              • 2012-07-30 12:34:29 UTC - 12:34 | Permalink

                howardma,

                I don’t think that’s the way historians or scholars in other fields normally reason. If the evidence you have leaves you in a state of doubt and you cannot get better evidence, then you accept the fact that you are in a state of doubt. Every historian needs to deal with the fact that much of what happened in the past is lost to us and needs to qualify his conclusions accordingly. Every scientist has to determine the the appropriate confidence level for the conclusions he draws.

            • 2012-07-30 09:26:17 UTC - 09:26 | Permalink

              howardma: “If these copyist from the second century were that free with Paul’s texts, they must not have viewed them as authoritative or sacred.”

              It’s more complicated than that. Even today with mass-produced bibles and high-speed printing presses, we can see a curious phenomenon at work. Inerrantist, fundamentalist Christians revere the Bible and believe it is the “Word of God,” but they also believe scripture means what it is supposed to mean.

              Hence the NIV translators are happy to render “sister-wife” in 1 Cor 9:5 as “believing wife.” Not to be outdone, the CEB translates it as “wife who believes like the rest of the apostles.” And as if to go “all in,” the NLT renders it as “Christian wife” — a translation that is both wrong and anachronistic.

              All that has to happen for the scripture to mutate is for a word or two to be inserted into the text each time a book is copied. Beyond that, we know that marginal glosses were frequently inserted into the text. Scribes who no doubt revered the scripture they were copying could also be moved to “fix” it if they thought it necessary. Hell, sometimes they believed they were correcting previous scribal errors!

              But don’t take my word for it. Just read Metzger’s The Text of the New Testament.

              • 2012-07-30 11:00:53 UTC - 11:00 | Permalink

                Tim,

                I don’t have to take your word for it, I already read the book by Metzger. And yes I understand all that and it shows in the text of the NT. But I think what we are discussing is not exactly the same as the known variants. We are discussing the problem of where the text might have been changed where there is no evidence that it was changed. That would pretty much limit the area where this could happen to the first 150 years. And I do not disagree that the usual type of mistakes and corrections happened during this period. But I guess the argument is that Paul wrote X, Y and Z and in the early second century some copyist(s) took it upon themselves, or maybe through their current leaders to write X, B and Z, and thus significantly altering what Paul originally wrote on purpose. See what I wrote to Vinny above as to my opinion on this issue.

                As for the translations you mentioned, don’t you just love how they interpret the text for you? The text is talking about taking a sister (a sister in the Lord) as a wife. But at least the basic idea was right. I really enjoy when they translate a literal geographical location in Israel as a mythological place where God burns people in a fire. Yes, I’m talking about Gehenna as Hell. As you might know, Gehenna is the Vally of Hinnom in the Hebrew Scriptures. Lets try an experiment and use the NT translation in the OT.

                (Jeremiah 7:31) “. . .And they have built the high places of Topheth, which is in Hell, in order to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire, a thing that I had not commanded and that had not come up into my heart.”

                Hmm… Interesting!

              • 2012-07-30 13:57:02 UTC - 13:57 | Permalink

                I think I understand your point, and it’s the point Ehrman has made before. He’s reluctant to call something an interpolation unless he can find actual textual evidence. That is, if we have one ancient manuscript in which a word or phrase is missing and another in which the word or phrase is extant, then we have some grounds to posit that the longer version is the result of later interpolation (depending on other evidence, such as context, etc.)

                However, I find it interesting that scholars like Ehrman are willing to say that certain epistles attributed to Paul are pseudonymous works. In a sense, that’s like calling an entire book an interpolation. Now there are often good reasons for suspecting a letter was not really written by Paul. I would simply submit that the same criteria that lead us to conclude an epistle is pseudonymous (and, hence, “interpolated into the canon”) could just as legitimately be applied to phrases, phrases, or entire chapters within the supposed “real” Pauline epistles.

              • 2012-07-31 07:30:28 UTC - 07:30 | Permalink

                Tim,

                You got me thinking a little bit about what you said. I am familiar with Ehrman and others suggesting that some NT books are pseudonymous works. I thought about this, and even if it is true, it may not mean very much. If we think along the lines of something Jesus once said, that whoever is not against me is with me. If the book in question is in line with the rest of the books, then it may not be important who actually wrote it. We could take it another step as well. What if the person who wrote it was a student of Paul. And what he wrote were things he learned from Paul, and so wanted to give the credit for the book and the things in it to Paul.

                But can we use this same reasoning with suspected interpolations? It’s hard to say without knowing what people are claiming about the interpolation. For example, was it added or taken away to make it more beneficial to Paul’s theology? Or was it done to change Paul’s theology? Did they do it to enlarge Paul’s writings to make his point more understandable, or were they doing it to suppress or hide something Paul was trying to explain?

                I think the biggest problem with dealing with interpolations that have no evidence is what is in the mind of the one suggesting the interpolation. It should be pretty clear to everyone on here that we all have our own ideas about the Bible and Jesus and so on. So for example, someone who believes in a mythical Jesus will look for reasons and evidence to suggest an interpolation about Jesus being a man. A Trinitarian will do the same for verses that show that Jesus is not God. A Mormon will. . . Oh wait, they just gave up and wrote their own new Bible. Just kidding to any Mormons out there. But you get what I mean. However, most people who believe in the Bible do not bring up interpolation as much as they like to interpret differently. Just like those translations we talked about. I know people accuse mythicists of misleading translation practices, but the problem is that everyone does it. The King James translators were probably the worst ones at this practice. Come on, 50 or 60 different English words to translate one Hebrew and one Greek word that means soul? Not to mention that they suppressed every occurrence of animals being referred to as souls.

              • 2012-08-01 23:41:02 UTC - 23:41 | Permalink

                Howard: What if the person who wrote it was a student of Paul?

                Luke Timothy Johnson offers a similar explanation in his course on Paul from the TTC. He actually describes two theories that can makes sense of the entire Pauline corpus as being authentic. First, it’s possible that there was a kind of cottage industry run by Paul with writers creating letters under his name. Second, Paul could be writing various letters with different personae, using a well-established rhetorical technique. (Recall Paul’s chameleon claims in 1 Cor. 9:19-23.)

                I’m not convinced by either theory, although I’m not sure Johnson is either. I got the feeling it didn’t matter to Johnson why all of the canonical Pauline letters are authentic, as long as we come to the foregone conclusion that they are authentic.

                Howard: So for example, someone who believes in a mythical Jesus will look for reasons and evidence to suggest an interpolation about Jesus being a man.

                Not necessarily. It isn’t just the content that causes suspicion of interpolation. We also might be alerted by word choice and how it fits into the rest of the surrounding text. Does Paul appear to contradict himself? Is it something the Marcionites might have added or taken away? Is it something that later orthodox scribes might have “corrected” by clarifying what Paul “must have meant”?

    • Bob Moore
      2012-07-29 22:38:43 UTC - 22:38 | Permalink

      I’m encouraged by Howardma’s approach here in terms of probability. (I’m a little less impressed with his speculation on ideologies) But, yes; Hurtado gets at this approach too when he responds to Erlend. Erlend says:

      “Well, as I had pointed out in a previous comment, the first peer-reviewed studies that are sympathetic to mythicism are coming out this year; e.g. Thompson and Verenna “Is This Not the Carpenter”, Carrier’s article in JACS, and a Rene Salm’s presentation at SBL on Nazareth. They are different to your standard internet, or old, mythicists. You can still point out that it is a fringe position, but mythcistics are starting to reassert themselves within academia and offering interesting arguments.”

      Hurtado replies:

      “When they do so, then we can consider them dispassionately. I’ll await with interest.”

      This opens the door, in my opinion, for dispassionately considering probabilities.

    • John
      2012-07-30 02:15:29 UTC - 02:15 | Permalink

      howardma,

      I don’t think I’ve seen you around here much (if at all), but this pretty much sums up how I look at the issue of a mythical vs. historical Jesus too. It was nice to see your comment, and the one below that speculates about the transmission of Galatians.

      I lean towards an HJ, but I don’t have a problem if anyone interprets the evidence we have in an MJ way. I find at worst that it is good exercise for the brain, and I’m impressed with the amount of thought that has been put into it, even if I’m ultimately not persuaded by it.

  • 2012-07-29 19:06:29 UTC - 19:06 | Permalink

    FORTIGURN
    even when the text is not considered by professional textual critics to be uncertain.

    CARR
    I shall repeat Ehrman’s words, which Fortigurn believes is a statement that the text is not considered to be uncertain.

    See if you can detect how much certainty Ehrman thinks the text of Galatians has.

    Remember, Fortigurn has claimed that professional text scholars do not think the text is uncertain.

    Let’s see if Bart Ehrman agrees that the text is not uncertain.

    EHRMAN
    Can we trust that the copies of Galatians we have are the original copies. No. We don’t know.

    How could we possibly know?

    Our earliest copy of Galatians is p46 which dates from the year 200. Paul wrote this letter in the 50’s. The first copy that we have is 150 years later. Changes were made all along the line before this first copy was made.

    How can we possibly know that in fact it is exactly as Paul wrote it.

    Is it possible that somebody along the line inserted a verse?

    Yes.

    Is it possible that someone took out a verse? Yes.

    Is it possible that somebody changed a lot of the words? Yes.

    Is it possible that the later copies were made from one of the worst of the early copies?

    Yes. It’s possible.

    CARR
    I think we can all agree with Fortigurn that Ehrman is stating that it is NOT possible for the text to have been changed.

    So game, set and match to Fortigurn….

    • Fortigurn
      2012-07-29 19:14:09 UTC - 19:14 | Permalink

      “I think we can all agree with Fortigurn that Ehrman is stating that it is NOT possible for the text to have been changed.”

      I have never said that Erhman states it is not possible for the text to have been changed. You are not reading what I wrote. Even worse, you are deliberately concealing other comments made by Erhman on the certainty of Galatians 4:4. He wrote this.

      * “Yes, in theory a later scribe *may* have altered the text. But as with all matters text-critical and historical, one really needs to have some reason to think so. And as all the manuscripts of Galatians are completely agreed at this point, apart from some hopeful or wishful thinking, I don’t know what reason there would be, in this case, for thinking so (especially since Paul does mention Jesus’ brothers elsewhere, and since we know from other sources that the James who headed the church in Jerusalem was in fact known to be the brother of Jesus). But still, your point is well taken.”

      * “Galatians 1:19 is one of your 75 pieces of the puzzle, and unless you have some compelling reason to think it was interpolated, then I don’t see how you can come up with any number at all (5%? 20% .001%) for the likelihood that it was changed. All we can do is go with the evidence we have, and this *is* some of the evidence.”

      * “But I do think that there really needs to be some *reason* to doubt something for it no longer to be beyond a shadow of a doubt. I’ve never been in favor of doubting something just because we can. When it comes to the words of the New Testament, if all the evidence points in one direction (as it does with respect to the words you’re challenging: they are in every surviving manuscript of the book), then there needs at least to be some *reason* to doubt that they were originally part of the text. Otherwise we’re not doing the work of the historian but are just inventing views that fit our agendas.”

      • Grog
        2012-07-30 00:08:00 UTC - 00:08 | Permalink

        But this is not the point that you are defending. You are defending Ehrman’s contention that mythicists appeal to interpolation when the text presents problems for their theory.

        Fortigurn: The real issue is that mythicists typically claim interpolation when it is convenient for their argument.

        Fortigurn: In the exchange to which you linked only one passage was in question, Galatians 4:4. As Ehrman pointed out, there is no textual critical evidence of an interpolation

        So you offer Galatians 4:4. No doubt there are mythicists who have argued that this is an interpolation. As I show in my previous comment, at least one scholar claims that “it is widely believed” to be an interpolation (R Joseph Hoffmann). So I don’t think it is that far out of bounds for a mythicist to make this argument. However, I just read Doherty’s discussion of Galatians 4:4 (Jesus Puzzle, pp. 123-125) and found not a mention of interpolation. His main argument:

        –Paul only enumerates the qualities of the Spiritual Christ and this need not be seen as having occurred in recent history. Doherty cites E.D. Burton to support his argument that there was “no necessary temporal relation to the main verb “sent.”

        –The word “genomenon” (which there was a recent debate concerning here on Vridar) is “not the most unambiguous verb” to connote “to give birth.” Again, Doherty cites Burton. Doherty concludes from this that “the broader concept lens itself to the atmosphere of myth.”

        –Greeks also claimed that gods or demi-gods had been “born of a woman” and the idea probably derives from Isaiah 7:14.

        –Paul’s mother of Jesus is a nameless, faceless, generic woman. Doherty argues “His point may be that he wishes to stress the paradigmatic parallel between believers…and Christ himself.”

        That’s it. Whatever you may think about Doherty’s position on Galatians 4:4, it is not based on interpolation.

        That’s a strike, Fortigurn. Care to try another swing? You might want to choke up on the bat a little.

        • Fortigurn
          2012-07-30 00:44:06 UTC - 00:44 | Permalink

          “But this is not the point that you are defending.”

          What isn’t?

          “You are defending Ehrman’s contention that mythicists appeal to interpolation when the text presents problems for their theory.”

          Actually that’s my own contention also. It is not a coincidence that Doherty, identifying half a dozen passages which contradict his view of Paul’s Jesus, offers in each case the idea that it may have suffered from interpolation.

          You say “However, I just read Doherty’s discussion of Galatians 4:4 (Jesus Puzzle, pp. 123-125) and found not a mention of interpolation”. I suggest a little more reading is in order. Doherty’s case is that there is sufficient evidence that Paul either could not or would not have written this passage, to discredit it as a defense of historicity.

          Turn to page 212 of ‘Jesus: Neither God Nor Man: The Case for a Mythical Jesus’ (2009):

          * “In sum, the question of interpolation of these phrases cannot be settled with absolute certainty. But there are enough compelling indicators that Paul either could not or would not have included them in the Galatians 4:4 passage to
          remove them from contention as good evidence that Paul viewed his Christ as a recent human man
          . Taken together with the alternative possibility that these phrases, if by Paul, reflect a metaphysical view of Jesus determined by scripture (although I now lean more toward the interpolation option), I regard this as an effective neutering of perhaps the most significant argument on the historicist side that the epistles stand in the tradition of an historical Jesus.”

          Note the words in bold, in particular ‘I now lean more toward the interpolation option’.

          • Fortigurn
            2012-07-30 01:04:28 UTC - 01:04 | Permalink

            Doherty has quite helpfully posted this tonight.

            * “There is, naturally, mention of “born of woman, born under the Law” of Galatians 4, which has its own problems and is vulnerable to arguments for interpolation (some supplied by Ehrman himself, as we have seen), though even if authentic it contains curiosities such as Paul’s use of a verb which does not directly convey human birth.”

            As soon as he mentions Galatians 4, out comes the reference to ‘arguments for interpolation’.

            • Grog
              2012-07-30 02:58:43 UTC - 02:58 | Permalink

              I do not have JNGNM, but relied on the Jesus Puzzle, which is sufficient. You seem to have missed the complexity of Doherty’s careful argument. He states that Galatians 4:4 is “vulnerable to arguments for interpolation” and that he now “lean[s] more toward the interpolation option.” Which all goes back to my initial observation that Doherty does not rest his case on the interpolation theory. Moreover, I quoted R. Joseph Hoffmann as saying that Galatians 4:4 is “widely believed” to be an interpolation. Hoffmann, as you are aware, has all the necessary certifications to be considered an expert.

              That you quote later works by Doherty against his earlier works only demonstrates the evolution of his thought. He did not start with a position of interpolation but has been more persuaded over time. This is consistent with my reading of Doherty in that he is conservative in adopting interpolation theories.

              I quoted from his very first work on this: The Jesus Puzzle, where he did not even raise interpolation in his main discussion of Galatians 4:4, so you can hardly say he has arrived too easily at his current tenuous position.

              • Fortigurn
                2012-07-30 10:35:24 UTC - 10:35 | Permalink

                “I do not have JNGNM, but relied on the Jesus Puzzle, which is sufficient.”

                Obviously it wasn’t sufficient, because you quoted it in an attempt to prove Doherty doesn’t appeal to interpolation with regard to Galatians 4:4, when he actually does. Your entire point rested on this, and embarrassingly for you the facts were the complete opposite of what you were claiming.

                As for the rest of what you wrote:

                1. I never claimed that Doherty rests his case on the interpolation theory. I wasn’t even the one who raised Doherty, Carr was. But you claimed Doherty makes no reference to interpolation with regard to Galatians 4:4, which is completely wrong; I know more about what Doherty writes than you do.

                2. Your quotation of Hoffman is irrelevant; it doesn’t support your false claim that Doherty makes no reference to interpolation with regard to Galatians 4:4, and it doesn’t address my point that Doherty does appeal to interpolation with regard to Galatians 4:4.

                3. I am not quoting Doherty’s later work ‘against’ his earlier work, I am simply telling you what he actually argues at present. It was necessary for me to do this, because you simply didn’t know. I note you’re now changing your claim to ‘Doherty is conservative in adopting interpolation theories’. I would like to see some evidence for this.

                4. You say ‘you can hardly say he has arrived too easily at his current tenuous position’; indeed, I didn’t say any such thing.

                The issue here is really simple; you claimed Doherty doesn’t appeal to interpolation with regard to Galatians 4:4, when he actually does. You were wrong because you don’t know as much about what Doherty actually argues as I do. I doubt you have even read ‘Jesus Neither God Nor Man’.

            • 2012-07-30 05:22:46 UTC - 05:22 | Permalink

              This is typical “Fortigurn” semantic twisting. His original charge was that mythicists typically claim interpolation for convenience — that is, to invalidly establish their case — despite. . . . etc etc. (He may cavil that is not what he said but it certainly does express the meaning he conveyed.) Now he is trying to claim that the mere mention of the possibility of an interpolation by a mythicist even in a comment surveying a general state of disagreement or history of an argument is the equivalent of “typically claiming interpolation for convenience . . . ” as a basis of his argument. What would he ever say of J. C. O’Neil and William O. Walker!

              I have turned on the Fortigurn tap for a short while. But I will trust the good judgment and patience of others to know when and where to leave him in his own grim world of sadistic semantic torture.

              • Fortigurn
                2012-07-30 11:05:21 UTC - 11:05 | Permalink

                “This is typical “Fortigurn” semantic twisting. His original charge was that mythicists typically claim interpolation for convenience — that is, to invalidly establish their case — despite. . . . etc etc. (He may cavil that is not what he said but it certainly does express the meaning he conveyed.)”

                I have not changed anything I said. I originally said mythicists typically claim interpolation when it is convenient for their argument. even when there is no text critical evidence, and even when the text is not considered by professional textual critics to be uncertain. I stand by that. I do not need to address your deliberate attempt to change my words, claiming I am saying ‘ that is, to invalidly establish their case — despite. . . . etc etc’.

                “Now he is trying to claim that the mere mention of the possibility of an interpolation by a mythicist even in a comment surveying a general state of disagreement or history of an argument is the equivalent of “typically claiming interpolation for convenience . . . ” as a basis of his argument.”

                No I am not saying that. Please read what I actually write.

                “What would he ever say of J. C. O’Neil and William O. Walker!”

                I don’t think you know very much about either O’Neill or Walker.

                Walker is an egalitarian who believes that neither Jesus nor Paul made gender based role differentiations within the church. He wrote ‘Interpolations in the Pauline Letters’ (2001), a study of passages in Paul’s letters which he believed had been interpolated (including passages which do not treat gender based role differentiations within the church). Unsurprisingly, every passage in Paul’s letters making gender based role differentiations within the church, is a passage Walker insists has been interpolation. Indeed, Walker is explicit about the fact that his interpolation theory derives directly from his personal theology.

                * “Particularly interesting to me was the fact that, if these two passages were removed, the seven letters generally regarded as authentically Pauline would contain not a single statement advocating a subordinate position for women in the life of the church. Indeed, without these passages a very strong case could be made for Paul’s radical egalitarianism regarding the status and role of women. Thus, my initial interest in the interpolation question grew out of a more general concern regarding gender issues in the New Testament“, Walker, ‘Interpolations in the Pauline Letters’, p. 7 (2001)

                The results of Walker’s study confirm exactly what he already believed about the position of women in the church. What a fortunate coincidence.

                O’Neill’s forty year old claims about massive interpolations in Paul’s letters (including 127 verses in Romans), result in an excision of numerous passages he believes assert the divinity of Jesus (along with many other passages), ironically, the opposite of the kind of interpolations Doherty finds attractive. It is hardly surprising therefore when we discover that O’Neill’s theological position is Unitarian; see his extensive argument in ‘Who did Jesus think he was?’ (1995). Like Walker, O’Neill’s claims of massive interpolation, support directly his personal theological view. Another fortunate coincidence.

                Neither Walker’s case nor O’Neill’s case has been accepted by the scholarly consensus. A key argument against both of them is that there is no text critical evidence for the sweeping interpolations they claim. The fact that in both cases their arguments result in the removal of passages inconvenient to their personal theology, should give considerable pause for thought.

  • 2012-07-30 03:13:59 UTC - 03:13 | Permalink

    As Fortigurn knows extremely well, even hostile anti-mythicists like R.Joseph Hoffman are very happy to call Galatians 4 an interpolation.

    HOFFMAN
    It is sometimes pointed out that Paul makes reference (Galatians 4.4) to Jesus having “been born of a woman, under the law,” but it is widely believed that these words are an insertion into the text of Galatians: Marcion, our earliest witness, does not know them, and as Hilgenfeld once noted, if his opponent, Tertullian, could have quoted them against Marcion, a docetist thinker, to prove the essential humanity of Jesus, he would have. We are left with the bare fact that Paul knows nothing of the human family of Jesus.

    CARR
    And yet, on Fortigurn’s planet, only mythicists sense the possibility of interpolation here, although even Bart D. Ehrman can say about the text of Galatians ‘Can we trust that the copies of Galatians we have are the original copies. No. We don’t know.

    How could we possibly know?

    Our earliest copy of Galatians is p46 which dates from the year 200. Paul wrote this letter in the 50’s. The first copy that we have is 150 years later. Changes were made all along the line before this first copy was made.

    How can we possibly know that in fact it is exactly as Paul wrote it.

    Is it possible that somebody along the line inserted a verse?’

    All words which strike a dagger in the claim that we can rely on the text (at least they do on this planet, on Fortigurn’s planet, who knows?)

    • Fortigurn
      2012-07-30 11:08:10 UTC - 11:08 | Permalink

      “As Fortigurn knows extremely well, even hostile anti-mythicists like R.Joseph Hoffman are very happy to call Galatians 4 an interpolation.”

      So what?

      “And yet, on Fortigurn’s planet, only mythicists sense the possibility of interpolation here,”

      False. I have never said any such thing.

      “How can we possibly know that in fact it is exactly as Paul wrote it.”

      As Ehrman says, we cannot know for certain. But as Ehrman also says, when the manuscript tradition in a particular place is overwhelmingly uniform, then unless we have good reason for doing so, we cannot assert that the text said other than what it does. This is the part you keep avoiding.

      • Grog
        2012-07-30 12:00:46 UTC - 12:00 | Permalink

        My last comment to Fortigurn:

        W.O. Williams quotes CK Barrett:

        “The evidence of the MSS can tell us nothing about the state of the Pauline (or,
        for that matter, of any other) literature before its publication.”

        1 Corinthians 11:2-16 and Paul’s Views regarding Women
        Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 94, No. 1 (Mar., 1975), p. 98

        You have moved the goal posts by demanding text criticism to reveal interpolations.

  • 2012-07-30 03:20:40 UTC - 03:20 | Permalink

    Fortigurn on Gal 4:4: “As Ehrman pointed out, there is no textual critical evidence of an interpolation, and the text is considered sound.’

    CARR
    SO Fortigurn has found a sentence where Ehrman contradicts his own stated position that we cannot possible know if the copies we have are original.

    Sorry, but you can’t make points by finding places where your authority is trying desperately to reconcile what he says to one group of people, with what he says to another group of people, especially if he does so by simply saying the opposite of what he previously said.

    Ehrman is incredibly clear ‘Changes were made all along the line before this first copy was made.’

    Changes were made *all along the line*.

    The fact is that Ehrman has two different sets of arguments depending upon who he is talking to…..

    • 2012-07-30 04:49:00 UTC - 04:49 | Permalink

      Changes were made all along the line before this first copy was made.

      Depending on his audience, Ehrman may emphasize the notion that most changes were inconsequential — misspellings, accidental omissions of single words, inversion of word order, etc. However he knows full well that in the period from 50 CE to 200 CE different factions were revising the texts to say “what they were supposed to say.”

      Did the Marcionites remove verses from Galatians that were originally present or did later catholic/orthodox Christians add verses that they believed would clarify Paul’s true beliefs and intentions? How would we ever know for sure?

      • 2012-07-30 07:11:44 UTC - 07:11 | Permalink

        This was the whole point of Ehrman’s “Orthodox Corruption of Scripture”. It was for those early years that we observe the evidence of corruptions that did indeed attempt to hide or add to the theological meanings of the texts.

    • Fortigurn
      2012-07-30 11:09:14 UTC - 11:09 | Permalink

      “SO Fortigurn has found a sentence where Ehrman contradicts his own stated position that we cannot possible know if the copies we have are original.”

      No he doesn’t contradict his position. He says, when the manuscript tradition in a particular place is overwhelmingly uniform, then unless we have good reason for doing so, we cannot assert that the text said other than what it does. This is not a contradiction, and Ehrman does not change his argument depending on who he is addressing.

  • 2012-07-30 11:48:01 UTC - 11:48 | Permalink

    I think it’s time to turn off the Fortigurn tap again unless anyone has a reason they can offer to allow his endlessly dripping efforts at claiming we never say what we thought we said and that he has never said what we think he said . . . . and who thinks it worthwhile engaging with one who tells mythicists they are wrong by definition as long as they do not accept the “consensus” of the “right specialists”

    • A Buddhist
      2012-07-30 22:00:58 UTC - 22:00 | Permalink

      But if we censor him, then how are we better than our opponents?

      Let him write here, and others may choose how to react.

  • Mark Erickson
    2012-07-30 13:48:02 UTC - 13:48 | Permalink

    I heard Price on a recent Bible Geek say something to the effect that historical scholarship is never the case of absolutely sure, it is always probalities (percentages). Carrier has explicitly made this numerical in his use of Bayes’ Theorem. Contrast that with Hurtado’s answer to my question: http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/the-did-jesus-exist-controversy-and-its-precedents/#comment-3238. That’s a huge dodge, isn’t it? He certainly has an implicit percentage, as Carrier says, making it explicit can only improve the methodology.

    • 2012-07-30 23:05:30 UTC - 23:05 | Permalink

      I thought that was an incredibly huge dodge. Although assigning actual percentages is somewhat arbitrary, anyone who is thinking about the likelihood that something happened in the past has to consider how likely it was. The trick apologists use all the time is to argue that something like the empty tomb is more likely than not and then to treat it as if it were a virtual certainty when they use it as a premise in the next step of the argument.

      • 2012-07-31 00:38:57 UTC - 00:38 | Permalink

        I agree actual numbers could suggest over-confidence, but the point is you have to try to estimate your confidence. And you’re right on that about the scholar’s version of an apologetic response. Good job on keep bugging Hurtado. I have to give him credit for keep writing responses.

  • 2012-07-31 15:54:54 UTC - 15:54 | Permalink

    HURTADO
    But to engage the sort of questions involved in this discussion really requires one to commit to the hard work of learning languages, mastering textual analysis, text-critical matters, historical context of the ancient Roman period and the Jewish setting of the time, archaeology, and more.

    CARR
    Blast!

    I thought I knew that Julius Caesar existed.

    But then I suddenly remembered that I don’t know any Latin.

    So Caesar might not have existed. I am just not qualified to say if he did or didn’t.

  • brettongarcia
    2012-07-31 20:14:32 UTC - 20:14 | Permalink

    In speaking with Hurtado – who is now head of the Divinity School at Edinberg? – and other well-established scholars of the academic establishment, I am always reminded that the archetypal paradigm in Art History, was always against the Academy, with their “consensus” and scholarly opinions.

    Our model in Art History, always strongly opposed the academic. Based on the experience of the new young turks of the 19th century; the Impressionists. Who at times had submitted their “crude” works to the academies of Art … and who were rejected by the great academics of their time. The impressionists being too crude; too sloppy, sketchy – “impressionistic” – in their details; too uninformed by accepted academic techniques. So that the Impressionists were not allowed to exhibit in the academic shows of the time.

    When confronting our securely tenured professors in the field of Unicorn Studies/Academic Religious Study programs, contronting their resistence to the new mythicists, those of use with training in real History – in this case, Art History – will always have in mind, the model, the paradigm, the historical precedent, of the Impressionists. Who were rejected by the academy of their own time; but went on to become accepted of course, as the wave of the future; the most advanced artists of their time.

    And for that matter? As I send nearly all my material to the new informal but open medium of the Internet? I will always also have in mind, the solution that the Impressionists came up with, as a way of dealing with the Academcy. In part, among other things, they just founded their own exhibition hall; deliberately presenting it as rejected by the academy. In their “Salon de Refuses” (sp?); the exhibition hall of persons rejected by the academy.

    If our religious scholars actually knew any REAL history, outside of their own precious and protected world, they would have seen this one coming, all along.

    To bad Religous study programs don’t actually know any REAL history.

    ADDENDUM:

    By the way, apropo all this? Since my own best material was not published by Larry Hurtado on his blog? I thought I’d submit my latest effort here. My specific subject here involves my objection to Hurtado’s current demand that all contributers use their real names. Thus violating the major convention of the internet – and years of literary tradition. That have long accepted the “nom de plume,” and the pseudonym:

    July 30, 201; Letter apparently rected by Larry Hurtado, regarding his demand that all authors use their real names:

    “One observation or caveat: for centuries, it has been accepted that the use of a “nom de plume,” or a pseudonym, was acceptable for authors. Especially in those involved in writing about Religion. Since religion is often an explosive subject; in which the penalty for being known publicly, was often literally, death by torture. As a heretic.

    Though Religion is today a slightly less explosive issue, it is still a dangerous issue in an armed and dangerous America, say. [Or in the international world]. And it is probably no accident that the pictorical representation chosen by Oxford U. Press for its Companion to the Bible (OUP, 1993; Bruce Matzher, ed.), was the subject of Daniel in the Lions’ Den. Daniel walking very quietly and carefully; hoping not to be noticed or identified, after all.

    For that reason? I’d like to respectfully request some latitude regarding the “clearly identify yourself” challenge.

    Religion might be a safe subject in England or Scottland; but it is still not an entirely safe subject in America or in the Islamic countries, after all. To clearly identify yourself in many countries, can still be literally, a death sentence.

    Could you re-consider this extreme – and in some cases, literally fatal – requirement?

    Even in Europe you should remember the cases of Salmon Rushdie, and the late Theo van Gogh?”

    Yours truly: Brettongarcia”

    [In fact? I’m finally reminded of Jesus’ own refusal to clearly indentify himself as the Messah, or as a king, before Pontius Pilate and the religious conservatives of this own day; the Pharisees. Jesus preferring to simply leave his own status an open, rhetorical question: “Who do you say I am?”]

    • brettongarcia
      2012-07-31 20:20:43 UTC - 20:20 | Permalink

      apologies for my frequent typos; I like to send out my rough draft sketches.

      • JoJo
        2012-07-31 22:07:25 UTC - 22:07 | Permalink

        Your comments might be given more notice if you took more care to avoid sending out rough draft sketches and riddling your sentences with gratuitous question marks.

  • Mark Erickson
    2012-08-01 00:01:16 UTC - 00:01 | Permalink

    I fully support Vinny’s efforts to try to engage with Hurtado. However, the phrase “naked appeal to authority” apparently went over the line. Here’s my response in case Hurtado doesn’t publish it:

    “Dr. Hurtado, regardless of the strength or weakness of your arguments, you are coming off worse than any commenter here. Tarring mythicists as flat-earthers is certainly more of cheap shot than saying you are arguing from authority. Even your reference to the supposed motives of Vinny is worse. Perhaps you are unaccustomed to the baseness of the word “naked”, but that doesn’t mean Vinny can’t use it.

    PS I would still take a bibliography if you’re inclined to provide it.”

    • Mark Erickson
      2012-08-01 00:02:07 UTC - 00:02 | Permalink
    • 2012-08-01 00:55:21 UTC - 00:55 | Permalink

      Thanks for the support Mark. I know that Hurtado is frustrated with me so it doesn’t really surprise me that he seized on my “naked appeal to authority” remark, but after after he accused me of “desperately” refusing to consider any position other than my own, I certainly didn’t feel that I was crossing over any line.

      It seems to me that Hurtado is a very decent fellow who, like Ehrman, never really considered the question of how one might go about establishing that Jesus existed. He’s sure that he did, but perhaps he’s finding that mustering the evidence it isn’t nearly as easy as he thought it would be.

      • 2012-08-01 01:25:00 UTC - 01:25 | Permalink

        I have wanted to do a post on Ehrman’s vacuous efforts to explain how we know anyone existed in history, and if Hurtado is just as lost on this question I look forward to writing a post that draws upon more than one scholar. It is as plain as day to me that the existance of Jesus has always been assumed to be as certain as that of Julius Caesar. NT scholars have never taken the time to understand how the nature of the evidence for Jesus compares with that for other ancient persons.

        But when I get to do this post is up in the air. I’m traveling again and out of my routines and easiest access at whim to the internet.

      • 2012-08-01 08:28:48 UTC - 08:28 | Permalink

        The following comment is still waiting to clear moderation on Hurtado’s blog. I posted it at least six hours ago, but with the time difference, he might have knocked off for the day.

        Dr. Hurtado,

        I try to be a polite guest. When I make comments, I always try to look to the blogger to set the rhetorical tone. If the discourse is restrained and civil, I try to follow that lead. If bombast and hyperbole are on the bill of fare, I don’t mind going there from time to time. I took no offense when you described me as “desperately” refusing to consider any position but my own (I’m used to that kind of thing), but I do feel that by doing so you set rhetorical boundaries for the conversation which “naked appeal to authority” did not cross.

        If you take as a premise that there was an earlier tradition concerning the sayings of an earthly Jesus, I would agree that it is entirely reasonable to infer that Paul knew of that tradition and that some of his references originate from it. However, I am posing the following question: Does Paul provide us with evidence that such a tradition existed? In order to answer that question, we cannot take as a premise that it did. I submit to you that if we start from an agnostic position on the question, Paul provides us with little to no evidence that he understood such a tradition to exist, regardless of how he is “pretty much universally taken.”

        I do not think that my agnostic stance is the only reasonable one. I actually find it rather uncomfortable at times and I was very much hoping that Bart Ehrman would make an argument that would push me off the fence in favor of historicism. His failure to do so does reinforce my suspicion that the sources are simply too problematic to make any more than a provisional case that Jesus of Nazareth was an actual historical person.

        Vincent J. Hart

        • 2012-08-01 18:57:53 UTC - 18:57 | Permalink

          Given the common theme I post here my own response to Dr Hurtado’s response to my own comment on his blog (http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/the-did-jesus-exist-controversy-and-its-precedents/#comment-3536) :

          Larry, you are very quick to castigate non-scholars if they at any point in your eyes to appear to be impugning scholars. But your own innuendo against non-scholars does you no credit.

          You wrote: ” In scholarship “authority” rests on having proven your stuff in refereed publications etc., and demonstrating mastery of the data and skills involved. So, if that doesn’t count for anything with you, then so be it. It this wayin any field. Or would you listen to internet amateurs on how to treat cancer??”

          I am sorry, Larry, but you have completely sidestepped the point I made in my linked blog post about the function of authority in scholarship and the public responsibility that that authority brings. You have then gone on to deliver a most obnoxious innuendo against my own thinking biases and proclivities.

          Can you kindly address the points made and not resort to this sort of shameful response towards those who do expect an authority to argue a case clearly to the public without resort to “this is how all scholars interpret the data”, etc, when it is the logical premises of that interpretation that are in fact the subject of the question?

          After reading Hurtado’s dialogue with Vinny on the sister post (Encore) it appears to me that Hurtado genuinely cannot see that his own argument is nothing but a fallacious begging of the question. He is very touchy, too, about having any non-scholar even appear to impugn the logical merit of “a scholarly judgement”. One is wearyingly reminded of a tendency among some scholars rely on prestige and status of their qualifications when faced with challenges they appear never to have considered before. Again — one is reminded of the nature of the more ideological of the disciplines.

          • 2012-08-01 20:13:53 UTC - 20:13 | Permalink

            HURTADO
            Or would you listen to internet amateurs on how to treat cancer??

            CARR
            Damn! A friend of mine was very worried about a lump in his testicle. I told him that he ought to have it checked out and that he might have to have a scan.

            Wish I’d kept my mouth shut now, because I am just an amateur. What do I know about cancer?

            Hurtado knows of course (because he is an expert on mythicism) that Price, Doherty , Thompson and Carrier all have relevant degrees.

            Hence he calls them amateurs, because there is one thing Dr. Hurtado loves, and that is being honest.

            • 2012-08-01 20:20:52 UTC - 20:20 | Permalink

              I should point out that Dr. Hurtado’s expertise is on New Testament manuscript transmission and literary analysis of the Gospels.

              It is like asking a Shakespeare scholar how historical the events in Julius Caesar are when his speciality is when the various folio editions of Shakespeare’s works were printed and who printed them and what were the changes from one edition to the next.

            • Lito
              2012-08-02 04:16:41 UTC - 04:16 | Permalink

              Hmmm, well, that depends, if those internet amateurs with no credentials CAN actually treat cancer, and can prove as much, then… HELL YEAH, I’d consult with them in a heart beat!

              An obviously flawed analogy. Matters of historical study hardly carry as much risk as cancer treatment. Hurtado wishes his field was anywhere near as important to humanity as medicine is, or that society in general holds his position in as high regard as a successful surgeon.
              Can people potentially die if they read Neil’s or Tim’s blogs?

              I doubt it. I’ve never heard of people dying from that. However, I have heard of people dying by following bad medical advice, be it the internet or elsewhere, such as Benny Hinn telling families they and/or their loved ones have been completely healed of cancer only to die a few months later.

              Hell, even allegedly GOOD medical advice, from licensed professionals, has resulted in deaths.

          • Lito
            2012-08-02 03:49:16 UTC - 03:49 | Permalink

            Very true, as even Ehrman has admitted before, sometimes scholars can become so submerged in the world of their peers that they become disconnected with the lay public and forget how to communicate with them. They can too soon forget that the prestige of their position really only matters to them, among each other the mainstream public just doesn’t really care, they are only interested in practicality, in this respect, they are only interested in the fact. Go on a mission trip to a tribal community in the jungle that has had no contact with the Western world and explain to them why their primitive superstitions are obsolete, and the fact that you are an academic won’t matter to them or add any more weight to your statements. What will ultimately persuade them will be the evidence that you can demonstrate.

    • Mark Erickson
      2012-08-01 01:45:13 UTC - 01:45 | Permalink

      Hurtado has published and answered my post. I’m hoping for a bibliography about Vinny’s questions with my response.

      • 2012-08-01 02:07:36 UTC - 02:07 | Permalink

        I don’t want to get into an argument over the accuracy of my “naked appeal to authority” allegation over at Hurtado’s blog, but I have asked him the following questions in the course of our discussion and I don’t think that any of his answers have amounted to much more than “All us scholars think so.”

        Can you point to anything that Paul says anywhere that makes it more likely that it was the latter than the former [in regard to Peter and Paul discussing the earthly Jesus rather than the risen Christ in their first meeting]?

        Can you point to anything that Paul says anywhere that makes remembered teaching more likely than personal revelation [in regard to Paul’s pronouncements on divorce]?

        Where does Paul ever say that he knew Peter to be a direct acquaintance of the earthly Jesus?

        Where does Paul ever say that any of his contemporaries had heard Jesus speak, watched him perform miracles, or been a witness to his crucifixion?

        Where does Paul indicate that a host of people that he knew had been closely connected with the man Jesus?

        What empirical criteria do you use to determine when a prior historical person [in addition to claimed visions of a supernatural being] is required [to explain the origin of a religious movement]?

  • 2012-08-01 23:55:12 UTC - 23:55 | Permalink

    Paul as understood by our top NT Scholars: Paul’s passion kerygma is the basic tenet of Christianity derived from the myths of dying and rising gods of the Roman Empire. The passion kerygma permeates the writings of the NT, the Scriptural source for Christianity. Its summary statement, the Apostles Creed. “In that familiar creed Jesus own history, what he himself said and did, is fully bypassed. Not what he said and did, but only what they said about him counted as saving information: Born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate. But what lies in between? Paul himself had not met the historical Jesus, but only the “resurrected” Christ, who for Paul literally and figuratively so out-shown Jesus as to leave Jesus out of sight. A conspiracy of silence has obscured what happened to the church in Galilee ever since Luke’s Acts told the story of the church’s beginnings with only one passing allusion to there even being a church in Galilee (Acts 9:31) (which was under the council of the Jerusalem Jesus Movement, first led by the key disciples with their Sayings Gospel, for which Paul was their arch adversary). Paul knew very few of the sayings of Jesus and did not have a kind of religiosity, much less theology, built on Jesus’ sayings, and even argues that this is not really necessary (2 Cor 5:16), so as to argue he is in no regard less qualified than Jesus’ own disciples (Paul’s abiding Achilles-heel). Also the book of Acts presents such a Pauline Christianity: Jesus has ascended to heaven, and it is the Holy Spirit who since Pentecost leads the church in Acts. But when one turns to Matthew, the contacts with the Sayings Gospel Q are so striking that one has to come to realize that the Gospel of Matthew was written in a congregation that itself had been part of the Saying’s Gospel movement. So it has become a new scholarly task of our time to supplement the standard version of church history based on Paul and Acts with the church history that leads from Jesus via the Sayings Gospel to Matthew, that is to say from Galilee to Antioch. For the Gospel of Matthew probably comes from Antioch, from a small congregation that had begun in Galilee and continued there for some time. Perhaps the war with Rome in the 60s, which devastated Galilee before reaching Jerusalem, that finally forced the remnants of the Q community to join the refugees fleeing north to Antioch. The small and failing Q community had perhaps haltingly, to give way to the Gospel of Matthew, which ended up repudiating (Its Q gospel). But Matthew, before turning to the Gentile Christians, produced an enlarged, improved, concentrated version of the first major section of Q in chapters 3-11 of the Gospel, but this was in effect the swan song of the Q community, as it took over the Gentile Christian Gospel of Mark, and copied it out pretty much by rote in Matt 12-28.” (James M. Robinson). In point of fact Paul was the arch opponent of the Jerusalem Jesus movement with its Q Sayings Gospel, which maintains our sole apostolic witness to the HJ. Paul, in taking his Christ myth passion gospel to the Gentile world, severing Jesus from his teachings and his Jewish roots, became the primary cause of the fateful historical mistake in the Jesus tradition, the cause of the “Jesus Puzzle”.

    • brettongarcia
      2012-08-02 03:13:19 UTC - 03:13 | Permalink

      Ed:

      Thanks for your summary of the current state of the art of Historicism, or Historical Jesus studies.

      Very hastily, though, of the top of my head, here are lots of quick objections to the current state of the art of Historical Jesus assertions. I’d offer a dozen or so immediate reactions, reasons I’m suspicious of this prevailing Historical Jesus hypothesis. Particularly regarding its fixation on Galilee. And on Aramaic.

      1) One is the general observation that there have been dozens, even hundreds of historical reconstructions of “Jesus” before this; and likely there will be dozens after this one too. None of them have held up.

      2) I’m also suspicious of the underlying potentially emotional/apologetic motive of this and most HJ accounts; since after all, it allows us to say “Jesus existed!” Thus covering our base with the conservatives. Even as we procede with any number of criticisms of 98% of the NT.

      3) In fact too, there is a suspicious simplicity about this account: “good, real Jesus” vs. “bad, Hellenistic Paul.”

      4) The whole new “discovery” of Galilee merely looks like the flavor of the month to me.

      5) And all of what is now claimed – based on so little evidence. So little – given a) the huge imperfection of information media in 50 AD; the confusion of dozens of different languages; an illiterate and superstitious populace. The c) destruction of huge amounts of specifically rival religious material, in religious book-burnings and so forth. And d) indeed the destruction of even the core, relevant towns and their population; from c. 60-70 AD. Including burning of Jerusalem to the ground in 70 AD. All of which meant no surviving evidence; and no witnesses or documents to really oppose much of any statement that any given religious leader or interested party, might have choosen to make, about the immediately-preceding era. While there were of course, about a dozen interested parties, hoping to see their own narratives dominate.

      6) The very few surviving texts … don’t really go back far enough in time, to even remotely fix huge historical problems like these.

      7) Surviving texts are furthermore, full of contradictory material; and likely written and/or edited at least two fatal generations after alleged original witness.

      So most of HJ is based on highly problematic textual analysis.

      8) The mere noting of a rebellious, nationalist/Zionist Jewish movement in Galilee, opposed to Roman occupiers and their taxes and so forth, adds little to what was already known about Jewish culture, from Israel/Jerusalem. We knew there were Jews oppositing Roman and other occupiers; hoping for a perhaps anointed king or lord or god, who would overthrow the “nations” and enemies of Israel, and establish a truly Jewish “kingdom.” Nothing new there added, by the study of Galilee.

      9) The re-“discovery” by Casey, as cited by Ehrma, of Aramaic elements in much of the NT, in my opinion, merely foregrounds a longstanding stratum, in the languages, of cross-cultural borrowings. Which involved or indicates not the single individual of an Aramaic-speaking “Jesus,” but rather merely over-personifies, reifies, anthropomorphizes, a large cross-cultural stratum. One characterizing hundreds of thousands of individuals. (Cf. Mandaean).

      10) Q sayings in my opinion were likely later, priestly interpolations; consolations after the failure of the material kingdom c. 70 AD; “blessed” it is to be poor, and without a literal kingdom; we can get by on “hopes” of a kingdom, alone.

      11) “Sayings” material might be even less important; sayings in my opinion might be unreliable oral legends conflating many would-be Jewish revolutionaries; even dozens of them. Some seem to be mere supersitious narratives of simply, miracles? Typical of folk tales.

      It is tempting to picture the origins of Christianity, all too simply: as involving a wholly Jewish Jesus, promising a “kingdom,” and said to be working miracles; vs. an evil later, Greco-Roman perversion of all that, by Paul and others. But this “good cop/bad cop” portrayal, seems all too simple. Compared to the complexity of the evidence … or the mass of conflilcting elements.

      12) We still don’t know much about HISTORY in this era. Or if we do? Our New Testament Jesus on closer inspection, matches up finally, matches up structually far better, with a) past OT narratives, recycled; b) dozens of earlier Jewish revolutions, not jsut one; and countless would-be Jewish christs, kings, home-rule revolutionaries, c. 167 BC – 150 AD. So there is not one probable source for Jesus, but dozens; even hundreds. Or even thousands; if you inlcude the crucifixion of 3,000 Pharisees in Damascus.

      13) Real history here offering no decisive information, or correlating “Jesus” only to hundreds, even thousands of “lord”s and would-be anointed “christs,” and “lord”s, we should turn elsewhere to see the origins of “JEsus.” Given the indecisiveness of History, we should look far more closely at the far more compelling, analytical/structuralist matchup between “Jesus” and … dozens of Greco-Roman and ANE myths. Including Dying and Rising Gods, and Platonistic/Gnostic “spirituality,” among dozens of other close matches.

      Structural anthropology, the structuralist study of myths, makes for fairly solid analogies between many myths, and the stories of Jesus. Though these analogies are not perfect, typically we can match 5 or ten major analytic elements of many such myths, to the NT narrative. Which in the opinion of qualified Mythography – of which religious scholars know little – is a strong match; enough to strongly suggest a) mere recycling of Jewish OT legends; combined with cross-cultural influence, cultural transmission, cultural diffusion from ANE and especially Greco-Roman myth.

      This to be sure is just a quick list, off the top of my head. But this might serve as the basis for other’s better attempts at a systematic summary of Mythicist objections to current Historicist speculations.

      • 2012-08-03 00:09:33 UTC - 00:09 | Permalink

        bretton, Thanks for your thoughtful Reply. None-the-less, but pointedly, I must say our particular cosmologiy, world view stands at radical odds, which determines limits to “objective rational” thought. By my sesabilities your Reply fits entirely under the umbrella of my above Comment 10., my quote from Doherty’s Neither God nor Man. Mythicism is simply not psychologlically able to entertain a legitimate view of the basic premis of the historical norms of the Guild of NT Studies.

        • 2012-08-03 00:59:01 UTC - 00:59 | Permalink

          Correction: reference to “my above Comment 10.” is a mistake. Here is the referenced post:
          Just here, I feel compelled to repeat a comment made on another site, which posted a quote which I believe precisely expresses the all-pervasive, fundamental, indisputable fallacy of the Mythicists’ argument.
          From Neither God nor Man, by Earl Doherty. By way of pointed emphasis, I state it in a paraphrase making but one change: the word “Christian” is replaced with the word “Universe”: “The advent of the Internet has introduced an unprecedented ‘lay’ element of scholarship in the field – the absence of peer pressure – has meant that the study of “Universe” origins is undergoing a quantum leap in the hands of a much wider consistency than traditional academia.” (Quantum and Relativity Physics).

  • Mark Erickson
    2012-08-02 04:59:23 UTC - 04:59 | Permalink

    I got to say, I admire Larry Hurtado’s willingness to write comments, even if they boil down to “the NT says so” (and NT scholars, of course). From several requests for support or bibliography for the claim Paul wrote about the teachings of an earthly Jesus, Hurtado’s response is one book and one verse. David L. Dungan, The Sayings of Jesus in the Churches of Paul (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971) and 1 Cor 7:10. I’m fine offering a book, others can let me know their opinion before I dig in, but one verse? He repeats it 5 or 6 times, so either it is really important and apposite or there just isn’t much there.

    He also claims not to know what it means to ask for a bibliography proving what “most of us [NT scholars]” believe is supported. (end of this edited comment: http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/the-did-jesus-exist-controversy-encore/#comment-3506) And he says he doesn’t make naked appeals to authority! Oy vey.

    In looking for info on 1 Cor 7:10-11, I found that Erhman’s argument (or lack thereof) almost perfectly mirrors Hurtado’s. http://vridar.wordpress.com/2012/06/11/19-earl-dohertys-response-to-bart-ehrmans-case-against-mythicism-pt-19/

  • Bretton Garcia
    2012-08-02 18:16:22 UTC - 18:16 | Permalink

    Correction: it is not accurate to deny that Paul did not know much about Jesus, Paul himself admits he came to the people of Corinth, knowing nothing about Jesus, but only the barest skeleton. No more than a rumor. While there is also lots of evidence to disprove the thesis that 2) Jesus himself was rather wholly Jewish.

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