2013-01-07

Hoffmann’s arguments for an historical Jesus: exercises in circularity and other fallacies

by Neil Godfrey

One never thinks to engage seriously with ticks so when Hoffmann calls his mythicist opponents “mythtics” it is clear he has no interest in taking them seriously. When he does speak of the arguments of those he has described as “ghetto-dwelling disease carrying mosquitoes/buggers” he necessarily keeps them anonymous and never cites or quotes them, but belabors the same tired old straw man points he seems to want, maybe even needs, them to be arguing. I return to this point at the end of the post.

So without a dialogue partner I post here my own thoughts and questions about his method that leads him to conclude that Jesus of Nazareth did exist as an historical person.

He writes in his post, The Historically Inconvenient Jesus (with my formatting):

Given that there is

  • (a) no reason to trust the gospels;
  • (b) no external testimony to the existence of Jesus (I’ve never thought that the so-called “pagan” reports were worth considering in detail; at most they can be considered evidence of the cult, not a founder);
  • (c) no independent Christian source that is not tainted by the missionary objectives of the cult
  • and (d) no Jewish account that has not been invented or tainted by Christian interpolators,

what is the purpose of holding out for an historical Jesus?

Actually I think his point (a) is badly expressed. I actually do believe we can and should “trust the gospels” — but only after we first analyze them to understand what, exactly, they are. I believe we can trust the Gospel of Mark as an expression of theological beliefs about Jesus because that’s exactly what it is. I can see no more reason to use it as an historical source for its narrative contents than there would be to use the Gospel of Mary for the same purpose. That means the Gospel of Mark, like the Gospel of Mary, is an excellent, trustworthy source for certain theological beliefs and the ways they were expressed among those who first knew these gospels. I know of no a priori reason to think anyone should bother to read them for kernels of historical events and persons behind their narratives. I can see lots of reasons in the Gospels to think their narratives have nothing to do with historical events.

But that’s just me (and, I think, William Wrede) so I’ll move on and for the sake of argument play the game the way Hoffmann plays it here.

As for starting with a complete absence of reliable external testimonies, Hoffmann is parting company with probably most of his peers. Looks like this position is a legacy from his own time as a “mythtick”.

So Hoffmann is beginning his “quest” for evidence of historicity without gospels, without external testimonies, and without any independent Christian source. Ex nihilo?

Hoffmann explains that the historical Jesus will emerge from “the three C’s”: conditions, context and coordinates.

Simply put, it is the three “C”s: conditions, context, and coordinates.

Conditions

He explains how the first C, “conditions”, gives us the historical figure:

The political and religious conditions of the time of Jesus plausibly give us characters like Jesus. This is a tautology that has to be confronted. It is possible of course that Jesus was Joshua, that Jesus was Theudas, that Jesus was Judas the Galilean, that Jesus (at a chronological stretch) was bar Kochba, or that he was one of the “others coming in my name” that he is said to refer to in the gospels. But the gospels present a fortiori evidence that there was another figure, Jesus of Nazareth, who also meets the prescribed conditions, and that figure cannot be argued away through analogy. That is to say, why would an analogous figure be preferable to the figure described in the ancient texts? What criterion or canon do we use to defend that preference?

“Characters like Jesus”? How do we know what Jesus was like? That is, how do we know whom to look for? We have just thrown out the gospels as unreliable, along with external witnesses. What’s left?

I don’t want to be putting words into Hoffmann’s mouth, but my understanding is that he really does rely upon the gospels. But he reads them in a way that some cheeky clown might compare to reading tea-leaves. I would never go that far, though. I do know that different religious groups have their own different ways of interpreting the gospels, and to help them get the “right” interpretation they will be given a “key”. A key is a guiding principle through which to interpret what you read. For many NT scholars the “key” to interpreting the gospels has been that Jesus was like some sort of counter-cultural, anti-authoritarian activist — not unlike other popular leaders who fell foul of Rome in that generation. For Hoffmann, the key to interpreting the gospels is that Jesus must have been something like the sorts of figures that we find produced by his three Cs.

If I am wrong and Hoffmann’s three Cs are conclusions and not the a priori assumptions through which he interpreted the Gospels to arrive at his type of Jesus, then he needs to explain — quite apart from reference to his three Cs — how his interpretation is more valid than any other interpretations that have given scholars quite different Jesus-types.

Until he does that (and I am not saying he hasn’t or won’t do that, by the way) then we can only conclude that the Jesus he finds in the gospels is the direct result of looking for such a Jesus via the three Cs, and then using the three Cs to prove that that Jesus existed!

In other words, Hoffmann needs to demonstrate that he is not just arguing in a circle.

Context

Skipping all of Hoffmann’s tiresome bombast against his straw-tick opponents, he eventually comes to the second C, “context”:

The context of Jesus is clearly the context of first century Palestinian Judaism, mediated through the work of Hellenistic reporters, themselves Christian—members of the cult of Christ, the Jesus believers. The clues to understanding what people thought about him—even when they got it wrong or deliberately exaggerated what they knew or heard—does not give us a drama like ravings of the Hercules Oetaeus or the mysteries of Mithras or Persephone.

Well, yes, but only if we trust the gospels that Hoffmann has already said can’t be trusted. Some scholars see evidence of Hellenistic provenances of some supposed sayings of Jesus. Many scholars have argued the settings of sayings and deeds of Jesus have been artificially added by the evangelists (or maybe their sources) themselves. If Hoffmann here relies upon the unanimity of the gospels’ testimony that this is the setting of Jesus, and therefore it must be treated as trustworthy, then he is following the same “methodology” that Dale C. Allison describes in Constructing Jesus.

Allison says that if all our sources say the same sorts of things, even if everything they may say is not historically true or verifiable, then we must accept that those “same sorts of things” are true because that’s the impression they left with all who contributed to producing the gospels. Of course this line of reasoning assumes, without any valid grounds that I am aware of, that the evangelists were recording historical memories. (If you are jumping up to point out Luke’s preface at this point, read What Did Luke’s Eyewitnesses See?) It would seem that Hoffmann is following this line of reasoning in saying that we can be sure the untrustworthy gospels can be trusted on this point.

But let’s go along with Hoffmann here on his point about context just the same. I don’t see what his point about Mithras or Persephone or Hercules is or how it makes “context” any more likely to be grounds for believing Jesus to be historical. Anyone who has read the popular Greek novels (See Reardon and a recent post on their relevance to NT studies) can read of a host of fictional characters, sometimes interacting with historical ones, all in “correct contexts and conditions”, and all plausible.

Coordinates

Let’s see if Hoffmann fares better with his third C, “coordinates”:

Lastly, coordinates. I said in my previous post that Jesus can be situated between the end of the first century BCE and the end of the middle of the second century BCE. His description comports with two events: rebellion against the temple cult by dissident elements, like Josephus’ “fourth sect,” and the ill-fated, last gasp effort of bar Kochba to redeem the lost city and its cult. A Jesus outside this specific matrix would make no sense—a sui generis apocalyptic preacher in an age of prosperity and contentment?

It is precisely because we can pinpoint the essential dates, figures, movements, factions and effects that Jesus does make sense: he parses. He does not come off as atypical . . .

Hoffmann has not made it clear how “coordinates” actually advances evidence that Jesus existed. All he does here is show that people like bar Kochba existed at the time of bar Kochba. Judas the Galilean, reputed instigator of the “fourth sect” lived at a time when people like Judas the Galilean lived. If a Jesus who was not unlike them also existed at this time and place, in these coordinates, then he existed too. That’s not a very good argument for historicity.

Of course his own construction of Jesus is plausible or not atypical — otherwise he would not be an “historical” Jesus. There seems to be this dogma that holds NT scholars in thrall and compels them to believe that the unhistorical Jesus of the gospels must have originated as a typical person of history. Why? (Sorry, I know the answer to that. Rhetorical question.)

As other biblical scholars themselves have said, they all begin with the assumption that there must be some other humanoid Jesus behind the Gospels. (But why must there be? That is never explained, at least not without begging the question.)

Plausibility of a construct is not historicity

Hoffmann is doing little more than arguing for the plausibility of the type of Jesus he has constructed out of his three Cs, and then using those three Cs to “prove” this person must surely have existed.

I wonder how Hoffmann would explain why his three Cs cannot also be used to prove the historicity of King Arthur or William Tell or Robin Hood or Ned Ludd or Juan Diego or Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay? Don’t each of those (presumably nonhistorical) characters also find a place in the conditions, the contexts and the coordinates of their times and settings?

Now Hoffmann may have a very good answer to this question. I am sure, if he does, that he will present it somewhere, sometime, with all the scholarly condescension and scorn he can muster. In fact, I am pretty sure I can anticipate certain objections to what I have written here. I won’t cover everything in this post because it will make it too long and I have already addressed most of it several times over the years anyway. I’d rather wait to hear specific objections before adding any further discussion.

(One point that is missing so far is that Hoffmann’s Jesus will also need to be tied in some way to the origin of Christianity. None of the other people who were cornered in the three Cs ever left such a legacy. But I think Hoffmann began to explain his version of how this happened some time earlier last year with the beginning of the Jesus Process(c). Still waiting for the promised development of that argument.)

I even wonder if Hoffmann is really too heated in his pointless polemics against straw-man or at least very weak mythicist arguments that surely can be found somewhere on the internet that he has lost focus on what is required to argue a case for the historicity of Jesus.

Or maybe his rambling diatribes against the supposed arguments of his opponents are a kind of subconscious cover to deflect attention from the poverty of his own arguments for Jesus’ historicity. “How can you fault my weak arguments if you keep in mind just how bad I tell you insect arguments are!”

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  • James Lynn Page
    2013-01-07 22:42:00 UTC - 22:42 | Permalink

    Firstly, in response to Hoffman’s ‘Condition’ that the political and religious circumstances of the era naturally provide us with a character like Jesus, it seems to be taken for granted that we know all about Jesus’ ‘real’ character, when in fact, his ‘personality’ changes from gospel to gospel. If it be taken as read that Jesus was in fact some kind of revolutionary – a la Judas the Galilean – then it has to be explained why the earliest Christian testimony (Paul/the author of Hebrews/1 Peter/James etc.) have a quite different Jesus in mind – the pre-existent Messiah from the Old Testament.

    Secondly, the supposed ‘context’ of Jesus can only be established if we knew for certain that he existed. It seems Hoffman cannot help but get caught in a circular argument. It is the same as saying the ‘context’ of Ebenezer Scrooge can be constructed from the values and beliefs of Victorian England society. (Obviously, it can, but he it doesn’t prove he existed.)

    Clearly, if the gospels are dismissed as unreliable, we have no biography of Jesus with which to work. Certainly, the NT epistles (some of them written before the gospels) give us no good reason to assume there was a historical person contemporary with people like John the Baptist or Pilate.

    • 2013-01-08 08:59:11 UTC - 08:59 | Permalink

      I’ve nearly finished reading Richard Hayes’ “The Faith Of Jesus Christ” in which he demonstrates that Paul’s notion of Jesus and the gospel is drawn from a narrative about Jesus being sent from God to save humanity and, in my view (surely not that of Hayes) this is clear evidence he has no earthly career or tradition as a source of his preaching.

  • 2013-01-07 23:34:13 UTC - 23:34 | Permalink

    “Characters like Jesus”? How do we know what Jesus was like? That is, how do we know whom to look for? We have just thrown out the gospels as unreliable, along with external witnesses. What’s left?

    Why must the gospels be historically reliable in order to talk about characters like Jesus? We can talk about characters like Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler even though Gone with the Wind is a work of fiction.

    • 2013-01-08 09:01:55 UTC - 09:01 | Permalink

      To try to talk about an historical Jesus beneath the gospels might be compared with trying to discover the historical Hamlet beneath Shakespeare’s play.

      • vinnyjh57
        2013-01-08 09:07:22 UTC - 09:07 | Permalink

        We could certainly talk about whether there were historical characters that were similar to the fictional character Hamlet.

        • 2013-01-08 09:26:48 UTC - 09:26 | Permalink

          Of course. But Shakespeare’s play will hardly be of much help.

          • vinnyjh57
            2013-01-08 10:53:39 UTC - 10:53 | Permalink

            It would be hard to talk about the character without it.

            • 2013-01-08 11:22:39 UTC - 11:22 | Permalink

              I’m not following you. I was simply referring to the need to go to sources that give us historical information about such persons. To start with a fictional character is meaningless.

              • vinnyjh57
                2013-01-08 13:32:08 UTC - 13:32 | Permalink

                Since the point of the inquiry is to determine whether the character is fictional or not, is it not equally meaningless to simply assert that “[t]o start with a fictional character is meaningless”? If we are trying to determine whether or to what extent a character in a story is fictional, it might be useful to look at the similarities between the character and actual historical people. I say might because I want to see the argument unfold. I’m not sure where Hoffman is going with this or whether he will be able to make his case, but I don’t see that dismissing it as a variation of Allison’s argument is justified at this point.

              • maryhelena
                2013-01-08 18:15:04 UTC - 18:15 | Permalink

                Next step for Hoffmann would be to see historical reflections in the gospel JC figure. Not just one figure, but as Earl said in my quote below, “elements of several representative, historical figures fed into the myth of the Gospel Jesus,”.Yes, that would point him towards the ahistorical camp – but it would avoid that particular mythicist argument that he finds unacceptable; that the JC figure is a historicizing of a Pauline ‘figment’. i.e. he retains the focus on reality, on historical realities, not on Pauline imagination or speculation.

                Hoffmann: “it is impossible to conclude that a figment invented by Paul could have served as the literary model for the Jesus of a gospel like Mark’s.”

                In other words; the issue here is not whether Hoffmann can establish historicity for some variation on the gospel JC – the issue is what damage he can do to a specific mythicists theory that a Pauline cosmic crucified JC was historicized as the gospel crucified JC.

              • 2013-01-08 20:02:27 UTC - 20:02 | Permalink

                So Hoffman thinks mythicists claim Jesus was ‘invented by Paul’?

              • 2013-01-08 20:10:44 UTC - 20:10 | Permalink

                There are lots of questions I’d like to ask him but there are rumours that he takes the cane and a vile temper to anyone who doesn’t wear the same tie he wears if they ever come knocking on his door.

  • Nikos Apostolakis
    2013-01-08 01:51:32 UTC - 01:51 | Permalink

    As far as I understand, Hoffmann agrues that if we assume that a certain version of Jesus was historical then we don’t run in to an obvious contradiction with what is known about the history and social structure of Palestine at the beginning of Common Era. That of course, as you noted, is not an argument for the existence of Jesus but merely for the plausibility of his existence.

    • 2013-01-08 08:53:08 UTC - 08:53 | Permalink

      It’s funny in a sense looking at all the reconstructions of Jesus. Some like Jesus to be just like others and others like him to be radically different from anyone else. Hoffmann would do better if he focussed more on trying to build his case than getting sidetracked with every other sentence by his loathing of mythicism. I was originally going to take more time on responding to his post and addressing other points, too, but it really is difficult to take him too seriously.

  • Will
    2013-01-08 04:04:50 UTC - 04:04 | Permalink

    Am I the only one that has the strong suspicion that Hoffman’s 180 degree turn from mythicist to antimythicist can be traced to his rather vehement dispute with Carrier? I know he would never admit that, but the timing makes sense… Also the extremely vitriolic tone of his polemic suggests an underlying emotional impetus. Just my speculation of course.

    • muuh-gnu
      2013-01-08 21:00:58 UTC - 21:00 | Permalink

      > Also the extremely vitriolic tone of his polemic suggests an underlying emotional impetus.

      As a “scholar”, he gets the benefit of doubt. And he knows that he gets the academic benefit of doubt, and abuses it. In my view, the whole historicists case rests on the exploitation of their academic status. “We are the scolars. trust us, dont trust the atheist blogger crooks”.

      If the debate would only be “argument1 vs argument2″ instead of “credentials1+argument1 vs credentials2+argument2″, the weighting of the outcome would likely be radically different.

  • maryhelena
    2013-01-08 04:27:40 UTC - 04:27 | Permalink

    Neil: “Characters like Jesus”? How do we know what Jesus was like? That is, how do we know whom to look for? We have just thrown out the gospels as unreliable, along with external witnesses. What’s left?
    ——————–

    History, Neil, Jewish history.

    If, as Doherty acknowledges in the quote below, “several representative historical figures fed into the myth of the gospel Jesus…….” then, surely, history is what is calling out for serious investigation in this HJ/MJ debate?

    “I can well acknowledge that elements of several representative, historical figures fed into the myth of the Gospel Jesus, since even mythical characters can only be portrayed in terms of human personalities, especially ones from their own time that are familiar and pertinent to the writers of the myths.”

    http://jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/rfset5.htm#Mary

    Yes, the gospel writers used OT interpretations in their JC story – but they also used Jewish history, Jewish historical figures, in the creation of their JC composite figure. The gospel JC story is a mythologizing, a prophetic mythologizing, of Jewish history. The gospel JC story is not history – but it is a reflection of Jewish history. Jewish history viewed through a prophetic lens. A dark lens that can only produce shadows not historical reality within that gospel story. And that’s why Jewish history has to be the primary source for interpreting that gospel story. That’s the light that has to be allowed to shine on the prophetic and mythological gospel story.

    Link to a chart on FRDB that strives to do just that…….;-)

    http://www.freeratio.org/showthread.php?t=313038

  • Will
    2013-01-08 06:07:47 UTC - 06:07 | Permalink

    Maryhelena, I think youre exactly right about the composite nature of the JC myth in the gospels. It is also interesting how the anachronisms shown by Lena Einhorn in her paper “Jesus and the Egyptian Prophet” add weight to the notion that the gospel narratives represent kind of a resynthesis of 1st century Jewish historical events into an ahistorical greco-roman narrative. And as a result this recognition, I think Neil is also correct that the gospels as such have to be discarded as sources for genuine historical knowledge about an HJ. And in fact if the anachronisms that Einhorn elucidates are in fact there, then i would say the gospel stories would tend to negate any inferences of historicity for the more narrow time frame of JC. That’s my impression anyway.

    • maryhelena
      2013-01-08 07:04:14 UTC - 07:04 | Permalink

      Yes, interesting article by Lena Einhorn.

      Lena Einhorn

      “To underline that the failure of Josephus to mention the activity of “robbers” between 6 and 44 C.E. is no coincidence, Tacitus in Hist. 5.9-10 writes: “Under Tiberius all was quiet.”

      Perhaps this is the real argument here (not the speculation regarding the Josephan story of the Egyptian – for which there is no historical evidence). The time period of the gospel crucifixion of JC story was a time of peace in Judea i.e. no robbers planing open revolt.

      In other words, re Einhorn’s research into the Josephan use of ‘robbers’, the gospel crucifixion story is not historically plausible in the time period in which it is set down – the time of Pilate and Tiberius.

      I’m surprised that this insight has not been highlighted by the ahistoricists/mythicists. Unfortunately, some mythicists are too pre-occupied with ideas of a Pauline cosmic crucified JC being historicized as the gospel crucified JC that insights such as this are not being utilized in the HJ/MJ debate. In fact, this particular Einhorn insight seriously questions the logic of such a mythicist theory. Why put a historicized Pauline cosmic JC in a time frame that is historically implausible…..??

      Lena Einhorn

      “In addition to this, Josephus makes no note of crucifixions of Jews between 4 B.C.E. and 46 C.E., except in Testimonium Flavianum. He mentions them, however, under Varus (4 B.C.E.), Tiberius Alexander (46 to 48 C.E.), Cumanus (48 to 52 C.E.), Felix (52 to ca. 59 C.E.), and Florus (64 to 66 C.E.), as well as during the Jewish War (66 to 73 C.E.)”.

      • Geoff
        2013-01-08 23:37:29 UTC - 23:37 | Permalink

        This seems to work directly against Hoffmann’s coordinates, then. The Jesus story falls right at the spot where we would not expect it to fall. To quote RJH again:

        “His description comports with two events: rebellion against the temple cult by dissident elements, like Josephus’ “fourth sect,” and the ill-fated, last gasp effort of bar Kochba to redeem the lost city and its cult. A Jesus outside this specific matrix would make no sense—a sui generis apocalyptic preacher in an age of prosperity and contentment?”

        Jesus is specifically outside the matrix Hoffmann attempted to link him to, which, as he observes means that Jesus makes no sense.

        • 2013-01-09 06:12:16 UTC - 06:12 | Permalink

          Are you sure? I understood Judas the Galilean was active around 6 CE.

          But if this matrix called for an anti-Roman, anti-tax sentiment then Hoffmann has to get rid of one of the supposed controversial frictions he found himself in with the authorities — his response to the question whether it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar.

        • 2013-01-09 06:45:45 UTC - 06:45 | Permalink

          I see now — I think you are looking at the speech of Gamaliel in Acts? Luke has completely botched his history here. It appears he was relying upon a distant memory of what he heard at a reading of Josephus and got the relative chronology of Theudas and Judas confused.

          I should add that I think Hoffmann has conflated very different types of movements to create his single span encompassed by the one set of three Cs. Judas the Galilean, I believe, is said to have initiated a non-violent response against taxes. Theudas looks like a leader of an “apocalyptic” sect, leading people to re-enact a Joshua event. (Not really unlike the symbolism imputed to John the Baptist’s activity?) The clearly anti-Roman political activities only surfaced in the 60s. Till then, there were many bandit gangs, but these did not have a political interest from what we can tell. (Horsley) So I still think Jesus is outside any parameter Hoffmann thinks is relevant, but whether he is or not, it is Hoffmann’s logic that is at fault, I think.

          • Geoff
            2013-01-09 09:29:52 UTC - 09:29 | Permalink

            No, I mean that during the adulthood of Jesus, it is time of relative stability. Judas’s rebellion seems mostly quelled, though later his sons appear to have revived it (I don’t think it was non-violent, by the way), since they are executed in the 40′s or 50′s, according to Josephus. The confusion in Acts is caused by Josephus referring back to Judas the Galilean in order to identify his sons. The author of Luke appears to misread that when he puts Theudas, then Judas (in that chronological order) into the mouth of Gamaliel. In that intervening time there doesn’t seem to be much happening.

        • maryhelena
          2013-01-09 14:31:36 UTC - 14:31 | Permalink

          Yes, of course. This study by Lena Einhorn is not good news for the JC historicists. However, it’s also not good news for those mythicists who maintain that the Pauline cosmic crucified JC was historicized as the gospel crucified JC…..i.e. placing an imaginary crucifixion around the 15th year of Tiberius makes no sense if “all was quite” in Judea and ‘robbers’ were having a rest…..So, off we go again for a new game of TF football…;-)

          ————————————-
          Lena Einhorn

          “Importantly, however, Josephus never once records the presence of ”robbers”
          during the time Jesus was active. In fact, there are no mentions of their activity between 6 C.E.
          and 44 C.E.”

          “To underline that the failure of Josephus to mention the activity of “robbers” between 6 and
          44 C.E. is no coincidence, Tacitus in Hist. 5.9-10 writes: “Under Tiberius all was quiet.”.

  • Will
    2013-01-08 08:12:08 UTC - 08:12 | Permalink

    maryhelena, I agree that this angle hasn’t generally been emphasized enough in the mythicist/historicist debate. I was wondering about the issue you raised concerning the the relationship between the Carrier/Doherty type celestial revelatory jesus and the observations of people like Einhorn (and even SOME of Atwill’s observations). As a novice I can only give superficial judgements about these matters… But I imagine that the Doherty/Carrier origins of JC are probably correct.. they seem to make such a strong case for it. the origins of this more mystical JC perhaps stemming from hellenized jewish intellectual circles like Philo or the therepeutae then later expressed in Paul. but then even later a more politically or socially aware narrative evolved from those roots as the movement had to adapt to the surrounding realities on the ground…. namely coming to terms w/ Roman control. So it ends up developing into a more thorough form of redefined Judaism that accomodates and even pretends to anticipate the post 70CE circumstances as part of God’s plan. Hence the politically significant features of the gospel narratives of God’s ultimate prophet predicting the fall of the temple, advocating paying taxes to Rome, pacifistically turning the other cheek, and castigating the Jews at the temple for not making it open to worship for all nations, etc. and thereby spinning out this kind of ideological, anachronistic and ultimately fictive retelling of 1st century Jewish history… “The NEW Testament.”
    Both these areas seem correct to me and I dont think there is necessarily a conflict between the two mythicist models.. perhaps they just represent different phases in the evolution of the Jesus myth. But as I say, I am no expert so I would be curious what others make of this assessment.

  • maryhelena
    2013-01-08 14:56:05 UTC - 14:56 | Permalink

    Will

    And how is the Carrier/Doherty theory doing in the HJ/MJ debate? It seems to me that it is continually knocking it’s head against a brick wall; firing dud ammunition against an approaching hungry lion….

    As for Hoffmann, sure he can’t establish historicity for his version of the gospel JC – but what he can do is aim for the weak points of the mythicist argument. And in that connection he might well cause some serious damage to that specific theory re a Pauline cosmic crucified JC figure becoming historicized as the gospel crucified JC.

    —————————————-

    Hoffmann: “Mythtics however are fond of pointing to the “assured” result of Paul’s literary priority over the gospels. Repeatedly they return to the Christ-myth notion that a heavenly man was fleshed out as an historical figure.

    But in my view there is no convincing argument that establishes that priority, and the disconnect between the two literary strands, gospel and epistle, is so sharp that it is impossible to conclude that a figment invented by Paul could have served as the literary model for the Jesus of a gospel like Mark’s. I hope in my forthcoming book to make clear how the connection was finally achieved–it’s not a simple story–but looked at from the standpoint of the history of the question I do not believe that the doctrine of Paul’s “priority” is a secure one. It is abundantly clear that Paul was aware of an historical figure and consciously set about to redefine him in supra-historical terms.

    http://rjosephhoffmann.wordpress.com/2013/01/05/the-historically-inconvenient-jesus/

    ————————————————–
    What the JC historicists are hanging on to is the idea, the very logical idea, that it was not all mythical (a position upheld by George Wells). Yes, we can debate just what influence Jewish history had in the creation of the gospel story – but to discount an historical relevance to that gospel story will keep the ahistoricist/mythicists forever banging their heads against that brick wall i.e. No forward movement towards early Christian origins is possible if everything about that gospel story is a result of Pauline imagination.

    • Will
      2013-01-09 03:12:02 UTC - 03:12 | Permalink

      maryhelena,

      hi. my impression of the Doherty/Carrier thesis in the historicity debate is different. for the most part i think it has been ignored. And when it has been engaged it is often misrepresented, misconstrued or mischaracterized (as in the case of Ehrman’s treatment). And I feel that Carrier and Doherty have really picked Ehrman apart in their reviews making HIM the one firing duds against the lion. I think Carrier has also kicked out the legs of historicity defenders in general by demonstrating the methodological bankruptcy of their approach. Again let me emphasize that this is only an impression as I have not read all the back and forth between the two sides… but from what i have seen, this is the sense i am left with.

      you also mentioned “..there is no convincing argument that establishes that priority, and the disconnect between the two literary strands, gospel and epistle, is so sharp that it is impossible to conclude that a figment invented by Paul could have served as the literary model for the Jesus of a gospel like Mark’s.”
      I actually have the opposite interpretation. In my view there is convincing evidence from modern intertextual analysis that Mark is reliant on 1 Peter.. see Chapter 18 of Brodie’s “Birthing of the NT”. Also chapter 6 of “Mimesis and Intertextuality in Antiquity and Christianity” where he shows evidence for Luke’s reliance on 1 Corinthians. And Also the chapter by Paul Elbert called “Possible Literary Links between Luke-Acts and Pauline Letters Regarding Spirit-Language” which appears in a book called “The Intertextuality of the Epistles”. So if these analysise are correct and let’s say it’s true that Mark is using 1 Peter as one of his sources… and if the standard dating of the epistles is correct then 1 Peter is after Paul’s genuine letters, and if we also accept the consensus about Markan priority.. then we can reasonably conclude that the authentic Pauline corpus predates the Gospels and is possibly a source.

      You also say that “what the JC historicists are hanging on to is the idea, the very logical idea, that it was not all mythical..” I agree in the sense of the Jesus figure being a composite of ACTUAL 1st century jewish figures.. But I still think Einhorn has really struck a damaging blow to the historicity sided by showing the level of anachronism implied in core events of the gospel narratives. This combined w/ what I consider to be very strong evidence of extensive literary emulation (homeric and septuagint) in the gospel narratives makes it justified to lean in favor of mythicism IMHO.

      you also state that “No forward movement towards early Christian origins is possible if everything about that gospel story is a result of Pauline imagination.” but I actually think this is a misrepresentation of the best mythicist case. Not EVERYTHING in the Gospel story is the result of Pauline imagination.. I think the Pauline material was perhaps the seed or the original meme that was the root of the later gospel tree. And as mentioned above I think modern literary and intertextual analysis has shown that the gospel tree draws on other important roots as well.

      • maryhelena
        2013-01-09 15:10:16 UTC - 15:10 | Permalink

        Will,

        The Pauline epistles are not the generator of the gospel JC story. The story about an executed Jewish messiah figure is an old story. It’s roots go back to the Toledot Yeshu and the wonder-doer story in Slavonic Josephus. In other words; it’s a moving story. Multiple birth dates and multiple execution dates that allow for a developing storyline. The Pauline epistles developed this story. Adding to its historical time frame a timeless cosmic context. Paul acknowledges that others preceded him in Christ. That is the NT storyline. To turn that story upside down – and place the Pauline epistles as the creative force behind the gospel story – is to run research into early Christian origins into a cul-de-sac, a deadend.

        Yes, the JC historicists cannot establish historicist for whatever variant of the gospel JC that is the flavour of the moment. However, that does not mean that the ahistoricist/mythicist ‘win’ the HJ/MJ debate by default. The specific argument that Hoffmann seems to be concerned with is the argument that a Pauline crucified cosmic JC has been historicized as the gospel crucified JC. That argument is faulty – i.e. it can no more be established than can the historicists JC arguments.

        Will, the gospel JC story stands alone. It is not dependent upon the Pauline epistles. It is that story that has to be considered in the light of Jewish history – not a speculative interpretation of the Pauline epistles. As some mythicists are fond of saying – don’t read the gospels into Paul – then also – don’t read the Pauline epistles into the gospels.

        Earl Doherty:

        “Even the death and rising dimension of the Gospel Jesus, which Mark added to the Q Jesus, cannot be firmly shown to be based on the Pauline Christ, though I suspect that the latter type of movement had some influence.”

        http://www.freeratio.org/showthread.php?p=7359328#post7359328

        • Will
          2013-01-09 17:05:19 UTC - 17:05 | Permalink

          maryhelena,
          nice to hear back from you.
          you stated that “The Pauline epistles are not the generator of the gospel JC story.” i didn’t quite mean to say that exactly.. It looks to me like the Pauline cosmic Jesus is just one stream of tradition that later fed into what became the gospels. I think if you accept the literary analysis showing reliance of some gospels on some epistles then this relationship seems indisputable to me. Maybe you wouldn’t agree with Brodie, Elbert and others on this.. but I find their analysis generally convincing.. especially when people like MacDonald have shown creative incorporation of other sources in the text as well.. demonstrating that is part of the authorial strategy of composition.. So then it seems less surprising when it is shown that epistle material was used in the same way.

          you mention “The story about an executed Jewish messiah figure is an old story. It’s roots go back to the Toledot Yeshu and the wonder-doer story in Slavonic Josephus. In other words; it’s a moving story. Multiple birth dates and multiple execution dates that allow for a developing storyline. The Pauline epistles developed this story. Adding to its historical time frame a timeless cosmic context.” I’m a little confused by this since both the Toledot Yeshu and the Slavonic Josephus are considered to be basically apocryphal and much later than the canonical material and are therefore not relevant to the formative stages of Christianity. So I’m not sure I understand how you can use them to support the claim that Paul “developed this story.” maybe I am missing something.

          “Paul acknowledges that others preceded him in Christ. That is the NT storyline.” True. I never denied this. But on the mythicist theory they were others that were invoved in the revelatory Jesus cult before Paul. Aknowledging this doesn’t necessitate an HJ. I didn’t mean to imply that Paul INVENTED jesus.. but that his epistles could represent a stage of the religion that is prior to the gospel stage.

          “the gospel JC story stands alone. It is not dependent upon the Pauline epistles. It is that story that has to be considered in the light of Jewish history – not a speculative interpretation of the Pauline epistles.” But Maryhelena, I think if a literary dependence of gospel material on epistle material can be demonstrated through using criteria of emulation in intertextual analysis… then it seems uncontroversial that the Pauline Christ was a tributary into the gospel Jesus meme. It’s not the only one.. but it is nonetheless there as one foundational strand. Afterall if Jesus Christ is just basically a title meaning something like “Savior King”, then it seems easy to imagine that in a period of tumult and difficulty for the jewish culture, altenative visions of the Savior King could sprout, merge and evolve with time. And i would submit that the scholarship i cited before has demonstrated such a presence of Paul’s conception incorporated into the gospels, making this evolutionary trajectory hard to deny.

          • maryhelena
            2013-01-09 19:59:54 UTC - 19:59 | Permalink

            Hi, Will

            It’s a case of trying to get to the root of things. Yes, obviously, as time went on, the Pauline epistles would be able to influence the developing gospel story. Paul, himself, has his own vision, his own take on things. All that could do is add to an existing Jesus story. That gospel Jesus story, as the quote from Earl illustrates, cannot be shown to have been generated by the Pauline epistles. (Earl has an imaginary Q founder figure and gMark adds the dying and rising element) So? That story is where the HJ/MJ debate has to focus. Pauline interpretations won’t help that debate.

            As to the Toledot Yeshu and the wonder-doer story in Slavonic Josephus – both these sources are routinely discounted because the dating of their storyline is outside of the dating of the gospel storyline. But…..when a crucified gospel JC is rejected as being historical – then these other sources can be allowed to have some relevance to a developing Jewish crucified messiah story. Dating manuscripts is of no help. We are dealing with a crucified messiah story and all material dealing with that story has to be put on the table.

            As to a literary dependence within the NT material. Of course it’s there. That’s the storyline afterall. However, if we want to search for early Christian origins, literary dependence will be of little help. We have to get outside the NT material. We have to get involved with Jewish history.

            Here is a link to a FRDB thread:

            Who is Queen Helene of the Toledot Yeshu?

            http://www.freeratio.org/showthread.php?t=317642

            • Will
              2013-01-10 01:44:14 UTC - 01:44 | Permalink

              interesting Maryhelena…
              “Yes, obviously, as time went on, the Pauline epistles would be able to influence the developing gospel story. Paul, himself, has his own vision, his own take on things. All that could do is add to an existing Jesus story.” Firstly, it seems ad hoc to assume that there was an “existing Jesus story” in the time of Pauline christianity. Possibly there was but i don’t think we can know that. But the relevance for the historicity debate is whether or not an HJ is even implied or necessary in the early mythos. I think Doherty and Carrier have shown (at least to my satisfaction) that it is not. And the Pauline material is best explained without one. Then when we move to the Gospel material you have to look at the actual content of the narratives and it’s probability of being based on historical events. To me, Einhorns’ anachronisms show that it is NOT historically plausible as a narrative. And it looks like a creative reshuffling of 1st century history into a fictive caricature riddled with historical implausibilities surrounding a main character that looks much like an anachronistic composite of actual jewish messianic figures.. I also accept the analysis of the intertextual critics showing heavy and extensive literary emulation from greco-roman literature as well as heavy midrashic emulation of the septuagint as literary sources for CORE features of the JC story.. not just incidental details. And add to that the traces of epistles as formative influences on inspiring aspects of the Gospel narratives. I think Doherty and Carrier differ on the notion of the ficitve Q founding figure as playing a role… Doherty is certainly brilliant and may indeed me correct about that.. I honestly don’t know. I tend to favor the Farrer model so I may actually lean towards Carrier’s case in regards to that aspect of the theory. But I don’t think one needs to take a stance on that issue in order to see that, apart from that, there are enough indicators pointing to a nonhistorical JC as the most probable conclusion.

              “As to the Toledot Yeshu and the wonder-doer story in Slavonic Josephus – both these sources are routinely discounted because the dating of their storyline is outside of the dating of the gospel storyline. But…..when a crucified gospel JC is rejected as being historical – then these other sources can be allowed to have some relevance to a developing Jewish crucified messiah story. Dating manuscripts is of no help. We are dealing with a crucified messiah story and all material dealing with that story has to be put on the table. ” I suppose we will have to agree to disagree about this. If this material is late, post dating the canonical material by hundreds of yrs, and the overwhelming scholarly consensus is that it is not based on actual historical data about JC… then it is of no use in the historicity debate… full stop. We cannot treat it as if it contains any insight or data relevant to the origins or historicity of the JC story. I’m not saying that it is impossible that it does.. but we certainly have no right to assume it does and use it as such. It does not deserve a place at the table IMHO. These sources can be equally consistent w/ the HJ thesis and the CM thesis. So they are of no utility in the debate about the historicity of Christian origins.

              “As to a literary dependence within the NT material. Of course it’s there. That’s the storyline afterall. However, if we want to search for early Christian origins, literary dependence will be of little help.” I actually think literary dependence is of enormous help.. because to the extent that something can be shown to have literary dependence like midrash on Jewish scriptures or mimesis on hellenistic sources, the less probably such material is ALSO based on historical reportage. And when the material like that looks to be so pervasive and encompassing in the gospel accounts the less and less likely you are dealing with a historically accurate narrative about actual events. And when you add to that the Doherty/Carrier model of the Pauline celestial Jesus that predates and influences that later highly fictive gospel material… the probabilities start to lean in favor of mythicism… to my mind at least.

              “We have to get outside the NT material. We have to get involved with Jewish history.” I agree. Enter Einhorn showing the historical implausibilities of the gospel JC in the historical context in which he is placed.. which, taken together with the other factors, adds weight to the nonhistoricity position.

              • maryhelena
                2013-01-11 01:21:14 UTC - 01:21 | Permalink

                Will,

                I’m an ahistoricist/mythicist. However, that position does not rule out history and historical figures as having some relevance for the gospel JC story. I’ve already quoted from Doherty re his position “that elements of several representative, historical figures fed into the myth of the Gospel Jesus,”
                .
                I’ve also quoted Doherty: “Even the death and rising dimension of the Gospel Jesus, which Mark added to the Q Jesus, cannot be firmly shown to be based on the Pauline Christ, though I suspect that the latter type of movement had some influence.”

                In other words; the gospel crucified JC story can stand on its own. It does not need the Pauline epistles.

                Will: “Firstly, it seems ad hoc to assume that there was an “existing Jesus story” in the time of Pauline christianity. Possibly there was but i don’t think we can know that. But the relevance for the historicity debate is whether or not an HJ is even implied or necessary in the early mythos.:

                The relevance for the historicity debate is history, full stop. Mythicists often attempt to shout down NT scholars if there is any hint of a pre-disposition towards a historical JC having influence on their scholarship. So, Will, perhaps reread what you wrote above. The historical debate is not about whether there was a HJ or not. The historical debate is over what relevance Jewish history had for the developing gospel JC story. There is no gospel HJ. Why bring such a non-figure into what should be a historical debate?

                Perhaps that issue, debating HJ verse MJ is a big issue for some people. I made my decision on that issue many many moons ago. Consequently, I find it of no interest whatsoever. The question, the issue, does not even function in my thinking. i.e. there is no historical gospel crucified JC – of whatever variant. There are far more interesting things to do with my time. Jewish history is far more interesting.

                Will: “To me, Einhorns’ anachronisms show that it is NOT historically plausible as a narrative.”

                Agreed. Now what? Run to the ‘safety’ of a Pauline interpretation or speculation? Nope – one has to get ones hands really dirty by digging in the dirty trenches of history. Not forgetting of course, the minefield that is the Josephan ‘history’.

                So, Will, what is it to be – sweet dreams with Paul – or nightmare after nightmare as one seeks a secure footing through that Josephan minefield?

              • Will
                2013-01-11 08:12:52 UTC - 08:12 | Permalink

                I see.. I guess we have been talking passed each other before, because i basically agree with what you said (apart from your current disinterest in the mythicist issue).

                one point of clarification though.. you said “The historical debate is not about whether there was a HJ or not.” But in my quote i referred to the “historicity debate” by which i meant the narrow question of JC’s historical existence… I wasn’t referring to the broader area of Jewish history in that era.. which I agree is fascinating as well. So i do stand by that statement as well as my basic arguments.. so i guess maybe our differences were more over areas of emphasis and personal interest than over actual conclusions concerning JC.
                Anyway, i have enjoyed hashing through this with you.. thanks for the stimulating discussion.

              • maryhelena
                2013-01-12 00:57:52 UTC - 00:57 | Permalink

                Yes, thanks, for the exchange, Will.

                Maybe I’ll just clarify one thing. The reason why I’m not interested in the HJ/MJ debate is because it can’t be resolved via interpretations, arguments, over the NT text. The TF is questionable re some of it’s wording. The Josephan writings are questionable. The Josephan writer is not just a historian; he is a prophetic historian. (Studies by Robert Karl Gnuse and Rebecca Gray highlight this aspect of the Josephan writer.) Thus, the only avenue with any possibility of providing some forward movement in the search for early christian origins is Jewish history.

                There is enough in the NT account to make a plausible case for a HJ. Likewise, with the ahistorical/mythicist position. The situation is not unlike that of those pictures of a vase – where one either sees that vase or one sees two faces. So, rather than knocking heads with the JC historicists, I prefer to make a decision in favor of the ahistorical/mythicist position – and run with that position. A position that strives to understand the historical backdrop to the gospel JC story; the historical backdrop that enabled that gospel JC story to develop as a reflection, a prophetic reflection, of Jewish history.

                For an historical inquiry, it’s the gospel story about a Jewish messiah figure, crucified, executed, by Rome, that is of interest. That’s the core from which everything else springs. It is a historical claim. And it is only Jewish history that can begin to offer some rationale for the gospel story.

            • Will
              2013-01-10 02:50:39 UTC - 02:50 | Permalink

              maryhelena,
              I should add that the only relevance that the Toledot Yeshu material could have would be to bolster the case for a composite JC.. So to my mind i would group it together with Einhorn’s contribution to the jumbled and fictive historical setting given to JC in the canonical tradition. the Toledot being one more contributing stream. So I guess if we assume this is indeed part of the “existing Jesus story” contemporary but basically separate from the Pauline JC, then to me it is one more nail in the coffin of the HJ as portrayed in the Christian tradition. I just wanted to add that. but it is very interesting no matter what its specific relationship to early Christianity happens to be. :-)

  • 2013-01-09 13:56:49 UTC - 13:56 | Permalink

    I don’t understand Hoffman’s conditions case. “This is a tautology that must be confronted.” ??? Is he saying mythicists must make an argument that explains why Jesus fits into the scene of late second temple Galilee other than the Gospels use the historical conditions as a backdrop for the fictive story? I tried to get steph to explain it to me, her response is comical. Hoffman berates my follow up, but I still don’t understand what he’s doing. I’ve got a good barb in my latest comment awaiting moderation. At least I think so.

    • 2013-01-09 14:20:17 UTC - 14:20 | Permalink

      I think Hoffmann has tossed it in because he thinks it knocks out one mythicist argument that holds that the Jesus myth was based on other myths of the day. So we can be sure Julius Caesar is from that day “because” he is like others from that day, and Virgil’s Aeneas was also created as a genuine literary person of the day “because” he is like other persons of that day, and the slaves and landlords in the fiction of the day were created in that day “because” they are like other slaves and landlords (real and fictitious) in that day.

      Yep, it sounds watertight to me all right. I can’t argue against it.

  • 2013-01-09 17:34:04 UTC - 17:34 | Permalink

    I think Hoffman’s argument is that his Jesus is very similar to a real existing Jesus – namely the Jesus described by Josephus who preached that Jerusalem was doomed and was later killed.

    But how do we know that Hoffman’s Jesus of the Gospels wasn’t the very same Jesus described by Josephus, who has , either through ignorance or design, described him as living later than when Pilate was procurator?

  • Claude
    2013-01-19 07:43:13 UTC - 07:43 | Permalink

    Oh man, Neal, maybe Hoffmann doesn’t wish to engage because of nitpicking over every last thing. You quibble for an entire paragraph over no reason to trust the gospels although what Hoffmann means is obvious. So since the gospels are theological propaganda they should be ignored altogether in Hoffmann’s process to identify a historical Jesus? Which texts would you suggest Hoffmann consult in lieu of the most extensive corpus on the Jesus story?

    I can see lots of reasons in the Gospels to think their narratives have nothing to do with historical events.

    I don’t want to go into the weeds on this or canvass the entire blog for an answer, but for instance, one reason?

    • 2013-01-19 08:18:49 UTC - 08:18 | Permalink

      We can demonstrate that their narratives are re-writes of fictional stories in the Old Testament and there is no evidence to support the claim that their authors collated their information from eyewitnesses or other oral traditions. That’s just one reason.

  • Claude
    2013-01-19 11:55:23 UTC - 11:55 | Permalink

    (The Price midrash theory?) Even if the gospels are complete fiction, why would you disregard them if you were trying to gain insight on one of the most consequential enigmas in history? Wouldn’t you scrutinize every last shred of papyrus you could get your hands on?

    I read maryhelena’s and will’s discussion above with interest. But likewise I have to wonder at maryhelena’s insistence that the NT is a dead end and scholars should concentrate on Jewish history. It’s not a zero-sum game, and good fiction reflects the times, a truism vinny noted above.

    “Characters like Jesus”? How do we know what Jesus was like? That is, how do we know whom to look for? We have just thrown out the gospels as unreliable, along with external witnesses. What’s left?

    From the gospels. Even if the gospels are complete fiction they offer several Jesusus to compare with contemporary historical figures. If I understand the argument, if Jesus is like other dissident apocalyptic preachers in Jerusalem executed by the Romans, why look elsewhere for a substitute?

    I like the bastard Sinister Jesus that Hoffmann’s got on offer and look forward to the sales pitch.

    • 2013-01-19 12:59:36 UTC - 12:59 | Permalink

      “Even if the gospels are complete fiction” then they are complete fiction. It is silly to think a character you know to be nothing but a literary fiction is also historical. When I was a little boy I used to wish some of my toys were real or that stories and characters in fantasy books were true.

      For example, we have an ancient historical novel about Alexander the Great. (It is generally referred to as The Alexander Romance, with “romance” meaning something like “adventure”.) It is fiction. Sure it is based very broadly on what the real Alexander was believed to have been like, but the story itself is utterly useless to a historian who is wanting to understand the real Alexander the Great. No historian would use it to study “the historical Alexander” or he or she would be laughed out of the academy 

      Now we do happen to have other evidence besides this novel about the real Alexander. It is both literary and archaeological. So we do know that there was an historical Alexander the Great.

      But IF all we had about Alexander was that novel, and we had no other literary or archaeological evidence about Alexander, then we would have no valid reason to believe that there was ever a real Alexander the Great. We would only be able to say “we don’t know” if the novel was based on a true person or if it is entirely made up. Further, we would be quite within our rights to say there was no Alexander in real history because we have no evidence for a real historical person. We only have a late fiction.

      Now imagine that situation, and imagine that one day later we do uncover some hard evidence for the existence of a real Alexander. Then we could say, “Gee, there really was an Alexander in history after all. That’s fascinating. Let’s find out more.” But that does not mean we were wrong to disbelieve when all we had was a historical novel.

      • Claude
        2013-01-19 13:18:30 UTC - 13:18 | Permalink

        First, I don’t know, and I’m not in a position to know, if the gospels are complete fiction.

        Second, It is silly to think a character you know to be nothing but a literary fiction is also historical. Nonsense. Vinny mentioned Shakespeare above. By your reckoning Shakespeare’s history plays would be utterly useless to a historian who is wanting to understand the real Richard II or Henry IV. But those plays do contain historical information, and if they were the only surviving documents describing Richard II or Henry IV then you might reasonably speculate on the basis of the folios who these kings might “really” have been. Maybe The Alexander Romance is just a bad book.

        Have you read Hoffmann’s latest post btw. An excerpt:

        Look at the phrase “solid historical documentation.”

        It is a good phrase but totally useless in sorting through much of ancient literature, where much of what we have to go on is neither solid nor (in the modern sense of objective reporting) historical .

        • 2013-01-19 13:53:48 UTC - 13:53 | Permalink


          By your reckoning Shakespeare’s history plays would be utterly useless to a historian who is wanting to understand the real Richard II or Henry IV.

          You are right. You understand me perfectly. James Bond novels contain real historical information, too, real places and heads of state. I can’t imagine why historians don’t use those to study the Cold War era along with released documents from the CIA and Kremlin.

          Hogan’s Heroes is about life in POW camps and I am sure historians could learn lots about WW2 from watching those episodes, too.

  • Claude
    2013-01-19 13:46:12 UTC - 13:46 | Permalink

    Further, we would be quite within our rights to say there was no Alexander in real history because we have no evidence for a real historical person. We only have a late fiction.

    But in fact he existed. You might be within your rights, but you would be wrong.

    • 2013-01-19 13:58:44 UTC - 13:58 | Permalink

      But in fact he existed. You might be within your rights, but you would be wrong.

      Exactly. As my maths teacher used to tell us to our annoyance, it didn’t matter if we got the right answer when doing long complicated maths problems: what he was looking for was how we got our answer. If we used the right methods and got the wrong answer we would get good marks. If we got the right answer but used invalid methods we would fail.

      That’s because our right answer was only a matter of luck or cheating.

      • Claude
        2013-01-19 14:03:19 UTC - 14:03 | Permalink

        So by your reckoning historicists are cheaters? Where do you get off with that trash talk, Neil Godfrey!

        • 2013-01-19 14:07:53 UTC - 14:07 | Permalink

          Of course historicists are not cheaters. I never said any such thing.

          May I suggest that you try to read my words a little more carefully. Take your time, read at least twice to see if you are sure you understand what I’m saying. My views are clearly something you have never encountered before, so it is easy for you to knee-jerk with what you have heard others say about me. So keep that in mind and try to understand for yourself what I’m actually saying.

          • Claude
            2013-01-19 14:17:09 UTC - 14:17 | Permalink

            I have certainly encountered your views before, in your very own words! You are making me laugh and laugh.

            However, I’ve learned a thing or two about the Pharisees in the past 24 hours, and for that I’m grateful. Good night!

            • 2013-01-19 16:11:21 UTC - 16:11 | Permalink

              So you appropriately laugh like a fool. I haven’t written anything “about Pharisees” by the way. What I wrote about is what many scholars in recent decades believe and say about Pharisees. But I think the difference is too subtle for you to grasp.

              • Claude
                2013-01-19 22:14:44 UTC - 22:14 | Permalink

                I may be a fool, but if you think I couldn’t negotiate your Pharisees thread I have to wonder about you. You may be hard to follow but you’re not hard to understand. And if you think Hoffmann’s discourse is “impoverished” I certainly can’t expect any greater charity.

              • Nikos Apostolakis
                2013-01-20 01:23:40 UTC - 01:23 | Permalink

                If you underastand what Neil is saying why don’t you engage with it? Instead of telling us that you “laugh and laugh” why don’t you explain what you find humorous in Neil’s views? Even better why don’t you explain what you think is wrong with them?

                As far as I can see, BTW, Neil’s is the standard scientific/rational stance.

  • Claude
    2013-01-19 14:00:21 UTC - 14:00 | Permalink

    They would if it was practically all they had to go on. You make is sound as if historians willfully ignore “hard evidence” in favor of literary interpretation. That’s ridiculous.

    You are not an historian. Historians often tell you that what you say they do isn’t what they actually do. How would you know better than historians what they do and what would or would not get them laughed out of the academy?

    • 2013-01-19 14:19:09 UTC - 14:19 | Permalink

      If Shakespeare’s plays were the only evidence for Richard II then the question of the historicity of Richard II would no more arise than the question of the historicity of Shylock.

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