No Public Engagement, Please. We’re Theologians!

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by Neil Godfrey


Otto Günther, Disputatious Theologians [Disputierende Theologen] (1876)

Emeritus Professor Larry Hurtado is a well respected scholar who has made significant contributions to his field. I have read four of his books (How on Earth Did Jesus Become God? — which I have discussed favourably on this blog; One God, One Lord; Lord Jesus Christ; and The Earliest Christian Artefacts) and have a fifth (“Who Is This Son of Man?”) on my shelf waiting in line to be read soon. I have learned a lot from Professor Hurtado. I especially love to follow up footnotes and I have learned much from other readings to which Hurtado’s works have led me.

However, I also have some differences with the Professor. That’s only to be expected. Probably none of will ever find anyone with whom we agree on everything. In an exchange some time ago I realized just how deep our differences were when I asked him for what he considered the bare raw data that any historian of Christian origins needs to be able to explain. His reply demonstrated that he is fails to distinguish data from interpretation. (I described this interaction and illustrated Professor Hurtado’s confused reply in Who’s the Scholarly Scoundrel? — Do excuse the editorial choice of heading. I do not believe Larry Hurtado is really a scoundrel. I once almost had the opportunity to visit the university where he resides and had looked forward to shaking his hand had the trip come off.) I found this confusion of data and interpretation/conclusions drawn from data alarming in someone who claims to be a historian. But then long-term readers of this blog will know how I have often pointed out the stark differences between the way historians of other fields when at their best employ methods that are unlike anything found in theology departments. Richard Carrier is not the only historian to point to Bayes’ theorem as a tool that can help historians monitor their biases and lapses in valid analyses of data and prod them towards more reliable results. Historians of the New Testament have a lot of catching up to do.

But there was another exchange with Professor Hurtado that shook me even more. He appeared to declare that one is only qualified to make a sound judgement on whether Jesus existed if one spends years in the studies of ancient languages and textual analysis and more:

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? (Larry Hurtado’s Wearying Did Jesus Exist? Encore)

Professor James McGrath has said the same:

Carrier suggests that laypeople can and should evaluate the arguments of experts, even with respect to the consensus. That seems to me strikingly odd – if laypeople who do not have the extensive knowledge professional scholars do can normally(and not just in exceptional rare cases) evaluate matters in that domain, then surely that implies that one doesn’t need the extensive knowledge of data experts have in order to draw conclusions. But anyone who has studied a subject even as an undergraduate, and has had what they thought was a brilliant insight, only to discover through grad school that their idea was neither new nor brilliant, will probably protest that Carrier is wrong. (Can a lay person reasonably evaluate a scholarly argument?)

I won’t repeat here what should be the very obvious counter-arguments that I have spelt out in the related posts linked above, especially Can A Lay Person Reasonably Evaluate A Scholarly Argument?

Professor Hurtado’s latest blog post repeats this point:

But if you do want to engage the issues, you’re just going to have to do some serious reading . . . in books, and articles, and in the original sources on which scholarly work is based.  

Scholars of theology engaged in the study of the historical origins of Christianity are not meant for this world. They can impart their knowledge; they can drop their pearls of wisdom into the laps of those who ask; but unlike scholars in less ideological disciplines (evolutionists, for example) they cannot engage the public in serious questions for which they really want answers.

One does not need to become a doctor in microbiology or palaeontology to understand the arguments for evolution. One does not need a doctorate in history to understand the arguments for (or any debates over) the existence of Socrates. But when it comes to the history of a faith that is founded and grounded in a theological view of history pointy little lay heads are told they need to master advanced studies in Aramaic and Koine Greek and probably Syriac etc. before they can understand.

In other words, they need to become indoctrinated by osmosis into the correct way of thinking and the correct way to ask and answer questions that the academy requires for survival and success. That’s the real bottom line.

This is a sad state of affairs. It’s not one to gloat over and it does not require anyone to make savage personal attacks — or even to make quite disingenuous snide remarks as some professors unfortunately do very well. I have no doubt that Professor Larry Hurtado is very sincere. He seems to me to have had a very successful career and made some significant contributions to his field. Some of his views (even ones he considers his most important ones) may be questioned but that doesn’t detract from Hurtado’s work. The act of engaging critically with some works like those of Hurtado guarantees a significant advance in overall knowledge and understanding if done professionally.

The fact is there for all to see, however, that Larry Hurtado simply does not understand or know much about the grounds for questioning the historicity of Jesus. The very question is intellectual heresy to him. One regularly reads (or at least I used to read on his blog) Hurtado making mockery of mythicists with accusations that only highlighted his ignorance. General sweeping statements — the sort made by others like James McGrath and Jim West — unsubstantiated, visceral, unprofessional.

The extent of Hurtado’s knowledge of mythicism appears to be Herbert George Wood’s Did Christ Really Live? I recall Hurtado recommending this book that he had read years ago and informing his readers that it pretty much covered all the basic arguments. One can see how well the arguments really are covered and how informed Hurtado is about the whole business in my post reviewing Wood’s book.

So what has Larry Hurtado said this time that has prompted this post? Here are some excerpts. I begin with his second paragraph. Notice the way the first sentence is a complete red herring. No-one is asking any theologian to break new ground or have an impact in his field through blogging. People are simply asking for a scientist to explain the tricky questions about evolution for them that they know the scientist can answer.

Scholarly work intended to have an impact on the field isn’t done in blogging.  The amount of data, its complexity, the analysis and argumentation involved, and the engagement with the work of other scholars that forms an essential feature of scholarly work all require more space than a few hundred words of a blog-posting, or a few paragraphs of blog-comment.  So, it’s rather unrealistic (not to say bizarre) for some commenters to assume otherwise.

So in case you didn’t get it, Hurtado makes it clear that he will not engage with the public who ask radical questions that go to the very core assumptions of theological studies. Theology is not so easy to defend as evolution. It’s meant for the sympathetic mind.

This particular blog site is intended to disseminate the basic results of scholarly work (particularly my own) to a wider public, directing anyone interested in further study to the publications where matters are discussed more fully.  Of course, I can’t expect that the “general public” will necessarily have read my publications or those of other scholars in my field.  This blog site, therefore, is intended to alert interested readers to developments and to the publications where they can follow up matters.

And if you don’t like this, then keep reading till you learn to think the same way as the other theologians in the field and then you can join them in telling others to do the same when they ask you those damn awkward questions that hit the layers of assumption that have scarcely ever been exposed to the light of day before.

So, to underscore the point here:  Blogging (at least this blog site) is for disseminating basic results of scholarly work, and alerting interested readers to publications where they can pursue matters further.  But if you do want to engage the issues, you’re just going to have to do some serious reading . . . in books, and articles, and in the original sources on which scholarly work is based. 

Damned internet. . . 

The Internet and the “blogosphere” hasn’t really changed that.

For the full post see Scholarly Work and the “Blogosphere”.

Finally, one last word from the most quoted living individual today (so one more quote won’t hurt him):

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.

From Language and Responsibility by Noam Chomsky.

And I can scarcely think of more ideological subjects than theology and history.

Or maybe theologians are always preachers and called to spread their seed and not be waylaid by agents of Satan along the way.





  • 2014-07-28 15:17:56 UTC - 15:17 | Permalink

    I agree that a layperson disagreeing with the scientific consensus can be dismissed without much concern. However, the domain of religion is not like that. Indeed, there is no consensus among the world’s theologians about the composition of the supernatural.

    Hurtado’s and McGrath’s arguments sound like the Courtier’s Reply.

    • Jer
      2014-07-28 18:45:07 UTC - 18:45 | Permalink

      A layperson disagreeing with the scientific consensus will be told why they are wrong, not just that they are wrong. All you have to do is examine exactly how scientists respond to creationists and their claims to see why theologians can’t use the same defense that scientists do.

      For example – I can read all kinds of books about evolutionary biology written for a lay audience. In many of these books I will see creationist arguments taken up and then dissected. Not just dismissed out of hand but shown why they are wrong – where they misrepresent the data, where they are drawing bad conclusions, where they misrepresent the process of natural selection to make their arguments.

      The day I see a biblical studies academic do the same thing with, say, the Jesus as myth hypothesis will be the first. When they try they fail to actually grapple with any of the actual arguments, present strawman caricatures of their opponents’ arguments, then fall back on ad hominem attacks and brandish their credentials as if they were presenting a holy symbol to Dracula. It’s exactly the opposite of how scientists deal with creationists and climate change deniers. So much so that their responses have pushed me over the years from the “of course he was historical” position to the “holy cow – if those are the best arguments available for historicism, I should probably be at best agnostic about it” position.

      • pakeha
        2014-08-05 08:15:51 UTC - 08:15 | Permalink

        Amen, brother!

  • Jaded
    2014-07-28 16:38:38 UTC - 16:38 | Permalink

    High profile scientists and historians simplify and explain facts for public audiences all the time. Is this beneath the good professors of our theological faculties?

  • Steven Carr
    2014-07-28 19:37:48 UTC - 19:37 | Permalink

    ‘But if you do want to engage the issues, you’re just going to have to do some serious reading . . . in books, and articles, and in the original sources on which scholarly work is based. ‘

    And , if like Neil, you do actually read these books and articles, your views will be dismissed.

    Of course,it goes without saying that Hurtado is not a hypocrite. He will read ‘On the Historicity of Jesus Christ’, so that he can catch up with the rest of us on what the latest peer-reviewed work his saying.

    He won’t dismiss it summarily.

    Hurtado is ‘just going to have to do some serious reading’, so he can get on the same page as the rest of us.

  • Wentham
    2014-07-28 19:39:34 UTC - 19:39 | Permalink

    I basically agree with your criticism of Hurtado and McGrath. Then too, I might confirm that Theology is not less subjective than Biology. Instead, theology is obviously far, far more subjective. Behind this “scientific” study of course, is religion. And nothing is more subjective than that.

    In fact, the very concept “faith” means believing in things for which there is no evidence; or even believing things that seem strongly contradicted by evidence. Theologians today assert that they have put aside this bias. However, strong as it is, we suggest that might be all but impossible for most. Indeed, for Hurtado especially. His appointment to Edinburgh (as dean, or head of the School of Divinity), was widely criticized at the time. For deliberating bringing in a foreign conservative (a conservative American, educated in Canada), to control and rein in the growing liberalism of a famous Scottish institution.

    And in fact, Hurtado’s work can be characterized as “apologetic.” That is, as essentially attempting to excuse what seem to be problems in traditional Christian faith. As for example, his attempt to insist that only “revelation” could explain why Christianity “exploded.”

    Still, for all his many faults, it’s fun and educational to have a full professor and dean to debate with sometimes.

    Albeit frustrating too.

  • Neil Godfrey
    2014-07-28 20:50:50 UTC - 20:50 | Permalink

    Something went wrong with the original post and only this morning I discovered a few lines of what I first wrote went missing when I published it. Have attempted to make some patch up jobs just now.

    • Clarke Owens
      2014-07-28 22:36:56 UTC - 22:36 | Permalink

      Erudition confers power. You can tell something about the character of an erudite person by how he or she handles that power. You can also tell something about the nature and character of a particular scholarly endeavor by the nature of the typical response to a question such as the relatively simple one that Neil asked Hurtado. (“What are the basic materials we need to determine the historical existence of Jesus?” — my paraphrase.) The erudite person can invite, encourage, support, instruct, inform — or he or she can seek to exclude the neophyte. The impulse to exclude comes from a feeling that one’s power is threatened. I have seen it a million times among academics. And I see it too in Irenaeus, when he becomes defensive about the definition of “logos.” You can’t even understand such matters, he says at one point. This comes at the end of the typical erudition defense, which consists of piling concept on concept until your listener becomes confused. Then you say, “Well, poor fellow, such matters are beyond your ken.” Power intact.

  • 2014-07-28 22:52:24 UTC - 22:52 | Permalink

    Theologians are perfectly happy to let the average person weigh in with their opinions or ideas, as long as those ideas don’t threaten or challenge the consensus. Once the person has the temerity to actually question some aspect of the consensus is when the claws come out.

  • 2014-07-28 22:59:43 UTC - 22:59 | Permalink

    Basic problem: theology isn’t history. The theologians cannot admit that to themselves, much less anyone else. Historians don’t take these guys very seriously, and they know it.

    “Unlike almost all biblical scholars, who operate in departments of religious studies, or religion, I am a professor of history. [His emphasis.] … in history, the evidentiary bar is considerably higher than it is in religion.” – William H.C. Propp

    • Wentham
      2014-07-29 09:39:16 UTC - 09:39 | Permalink

      Well said. Looks like a useful quote too.

  • pete
    2014-07-29 01:08:13 UTC - 01:08 | Permalink

    If I am reading Hurtado correctly, by saying, “The Internet and the “blogosphere” hasn’t
    really changed that”, he could be failing to address the wealth of resources available online
    to those of us who refer to ourselves as “hobbyist scholars”. Perhaps he is just referring
    to bloggers and such who attempt to fool the general public into thinking they are just as
    educated as a PhD?

    Some hobbyists build airplane models, others build models of historical periods. Some of
    those enthusiasts become quite proficient. For some of us who are ex-Christians and/or
    “cultural Christians”, the subject of Christian origins is important enough to motivate
    steady application of effort. Thankfully, I have enough curiousity about my hobby to not
    worry about scholars who wear their robes like the Pharisees allegedly did.

  • Gingerbaker
    2014-07-29 16:42:42 UTC - 16:42 | Permalink

    When I first read this post’s title – “No Public Engagement, Please. We’re Theologians!” I thought you might be writing about a phenomenon which I find very instructive about the difference between science and religion. And that is the reluctance if not enforced insulation between the views of Biblical Studies professors and church congregations, as opposed to the open communication between scientific experts and the lay audience.

    Scientists are continually writing books and articles explaining in easily understood language the best available information about science in order to educate the common man. They are encouraged to give public lectures on topics of their expertise in schools and public fora.

    In contradistinction to this, we observe a strict quarantine of the views of sophisticated theologians from the public. They are not invited to share their erudition with congregations – because their knowledge of scripture and apologetics often, if not entirely, contradicts the dogma drilled into the heads of the faithful. Can you imagine the response if a sophisticated theologian addressed a congregation and told them that nobody in the highest echelons of divinity schools believed that the Jesus depicted in the gospels actually existed, or that Adam and Eve and original sin were mere metaphor, or that the Resurrection story was confused, impossible, and multiply derivative?

  • 2014-07-29 16:52:13 UTC - 16:52 | Permalink

    “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.”

    I was dating a woman who has a PhD in economics. Econ straddles the line between math and sociology, and one point she made was that people who are more on the math part of econ don’t really care for titles. They just want you to shut up and multiply, to be blunt. If you have the right answer, then you have the right answer. It doesn’t matter how many PhDs you have. On the other hand, people more on the social side care a great deal about titles. They make sure they list all of their accreditations and certifications in their bios and slide presentations.

    Case in point: At UPenn (where she got her PhD) students who are accepted to the grad program for econ have an option of applying for and receiving an MA. It’s really a formality; you don’t have to do any additional work to earn the MA. So anyone who goes to Penn and *lists* both an econ PhD and MA from UPenn in their bio is probably in it for impressing the “social reality” folks that Chomsky is talking about.

    As another issue against Hurtado’s point of view. In the evolution/creationism debate — which I was involved in for a very long time — I never met a single creationist who was convinced by arguments for evolution by waving around credentials. They were all won by actually going over the data, the facts on the ground, and whatever interpretation makes the most sense of the data. A lot of the time agreeing on what exactly was a fact turned out to be an issue, but in the end it was always the arguments. The fact that 99% of biologists agree was really just the icing on the cake.

  • Wentham
    2014-07-29 18:19:54 UTC - 18:19 | Permalink

    I note a few infelicitous grammatical elements in my posts above. But of course I mean to say that indeed, Theology is fantastically subjective.

    By the way, here’s some background on the latest Hurtado offense. Hurtado was making his latest “no non-professionals allowed here” remark, at the very time that he was reviewing a book by the rather professional and famous Dr. Ehrman. Who in turn was taking apart Hurtado’s contention about the moment Jesus became “lord.” Hurtado’s typical apologetics argument had been claiming that nothing in the Jewish tradition would allow Jews to call Jesus “Lord”; nothing except an apparently supernatural revelation. But Ehrman was noting that after all, it was common practice for Romans to be called gods, or sons of Gods, or “lords.” And likely the appellation of “lord” came from Greco-Romanized Jews.

    Hurtado’s comments section suddenly went blank, when commentators began noting this objection to Hurtado. One that came not just from amateurs, but also from the famous Dr. Ehrman. And dozens of others. Who were noting that likely there were many such Greek and Roman ideas affecting the Bible. Especially after hundreds of years of occupation of Jerusalem by foreign occupiers. Including the Greeks from 300 BC; then the Romans especially from 64 BC – there were thousands of Greek- and Roman-influenced or “Hellenized” Jews, in Alexandria, and even Jerusalem (like Herod; Philo; etc.). http://www.christiancentury.org/reviews/2014-07/lord-and-god

    Hurtado is like many provincial, not broadly-educated, and still pious theologians. He seems to believe that any influence on early Christianity could only have come from mainstream, even zealous Judaism. That our Jesus came entirely from the Jewish Yahweh, or God – “And no other gods before him.” Yet there is lots of evidence that other scholars accept, that Christianity evidences hundreds of influences from other cultures, and other gods. Especially from Greek and Roman traditions of men who were regarded as gods or “lords.” Or “sons of” God.

    When Hurtado asserts that others disagree with him just because they have not read widely enough, that is very clearly a case of psychological “projection.” Hurtado’s perspective is precisely, too narrow. He like McGrath, and the typical corner church preacher, has not read widely enough. He like many other narrowly religious folks, seems incapable of the Anthropological perspective. And cross-cultural comparisons.

    Or especially the perspective of Comparative Religions. Or Comparative Mythography. Neglected fields which turn out to at last begin to reveal the mythical side of “Jesus,” especially. As well as study of the larger ANE – Ancient Near East – context of Judaism. Noting multi-cultural – not just Jewish – inputs.

  • 2014-07-31 00:04:17 UTC - 00:04 | Permalink

    Here’s an argument that I am apparently unqualified to appreciate due to my lack of training:

    Paul uses the word Aramaic word “Abba.”

    The context indicates that Paul’s readers were already familiar with the word as a description of a Christian’s relationship with God the Father.

    Mark quotes Jesus using the word “Abba.”

    Therefore, it is very probable that it was Jesus who introduced the word into the Christian lexicon.

    It is very improbable that some other Aramaic speaker introduced the use of the word and that Mark simply attributed it to Jesus.

    That a highly trained tenured scholar cannot see the holes in that logic is very discouraging.

  • 2014-07-31 01:28:46 UTC - 01:28 | Permalink

    Larry Hurtado patiently explains in one of his comments the sort of scholar he is not:

    If someone clearly presses a priori premises that don’t arise from data and require an ideological starting point, fair enough. But I’m not one of those. . . .

    But we have seen that Larry cannot distinguish between data and interpretation of data. I suspect there are many like him in the field. Assumptions are so deeply embedded they are not even recognized.

    • Steven Carr
      2014-07-31 13:37:56 UTC - 13:37 | Permalink

      Professor Hurtado is really embarrassing himself in his replies to me, where he is clearly starting from an ideological starting point and then painting over Paul’s words with the picture Hurtado has in mind.

      • Wentham
        2014-07-31 17:53:48 UTC - 17:53 | Permalink

        Steven Carr, writer for The Journal for the Study of Historical Jesus, winner of a Templeton Prize?

        A link or two here to some key moments in the controversy with Hurtado, would be greatly appreciated.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2014-07-31 20:56:26 UTC - 20:56 | Permalink


          Steven Carr

          Paul tells the Corinthians that there were teachings held back from them. They were only ready for the ‘milk’

          Paul in Phil 4:12 uses the word ‘mueo’ – a technical word used in the initiation rites of pagan mystery religions,

          Even Clement of Alexandria praises secrecy, writing in Stromata 5 ‘Rightly then, Plato, in the Epistles, treating of God, says: “We must speak in enigmas that should the tablet come by any mischance on its leaves either by sea or land, he who reads may remain ignorant.”

          There was more to Christianity than was written down in the Epistles. There were secrets known only to the ‘teleioi’


          Yes, Steven, we have the language of “secrets” in Paul, et alia, but, e.g., in the Corinthians passage you cite it’s used to scold the church for not being ready for his teaching, which, of course, he delivered publicly! In Clement we have a guy reacting against and appropriating for his own purposes the language of “mystery” and even “gnostic” terminology. And, sure, by the 2nd century there were clearer distinctions between initiates and outsiders as to the level of teaching. But that’s still not a secret society, meeting covertly and trying to avoid attention from the public or authorities. Stay on the topic, please.

          Steven Carr

          We have little information about church activities from 65 to 95 AD. And that means there is no evidence (as far as I know) that Christians met secretly (as opposed to privately). Why would they meet secretly?

          Surely by Paul there were clear distinctions between people who were fed milk and people who were ready for other teachings. In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul explains that he taught ‘the foundations’ and that others , Apollos in particular, built on that.

          And in 1 Corinthians 8, Paul explains that not all have been taught the knowledge needed to eat in a temple of an idol, while others, lacking that knowledge, may be confused by seeing you do that.

          Paul is clear in 1 Corinthians 2:1 that he did not teach the Corinthians the mysteries, and he says in 1 Corinthians 2:6 that he only speaks God’s wisdom, hidden and secret, among the mature (teleios)

          Hebrews 5:12-6:3 is clear that there were different levels of teaching.

          So Christians had secrets, which they kept from certain believers, let alone outsiders, but I know of nowhere where they were a secret society in the first century AD.


          Steven, Here’s a tip to reading texts: Read the context, and try, try really hard, to enter into the larger discourse and tone of a text. E.g., in 1 Cor 2–3 it’s clear that Paul is writing ironically and with rhetorical intent. So, from chapter 1 onward it’s clear that the immaturity of the Corinthians lies in their divisiveness and other misbehaviour, “mature” being used in a profoundly different way from its use in Roman-era “mystery cults”. You’ve missed that by proof-texting and taking individual sentences out of context. The deep “mysteries” that Paul proclaims are simply the significance of his one message, about Jesus and his crucifixion (1 Cor 1:18-31; 2:1-5). The depth of significance of this message, to be sure, says Paul, requires someone “mature” enough to go beyond its offensiveness, going beyond the “wisdom” of the world/philosophers and perceiving God’s striking purpose in Jesus’ execution.

          I won’t prolong this with showing how you’ve missed the other texts as well (e.g., Heb 5:12–6:3 is again about the behavioural immaturity of the readers). But, to underscore the point, read texts contextually. You’ll learn a lot.

          Steven Carr

          I hope Professor Hurtado will forgive me if I am not offended by his lecture.


          No intention to offend, Steve. Simply to inform and instruct. You declare your assumptions so boldly, I thought a bold corrective would be appropriate.

          • Steven Carr
            2014-07-31 21:06:01 UTC - 21:06 | Permalink

            Hurtado, rather amusingly, simply refuses to read what Paul writes.

            And, apparently, if I quote Paul in detail, pointing out where he uses words found in mystery religions, these are ‘assumptions’.

            I think Hurtado can be safely put on an ignore list, when it comes to historical Jesus studies.

            He is very good on manuscripts.

            • Steven Carr
              2014-07-31 21:09:35 UTC - 21:09 | Permalink

              And I can point out how Hurtado has no problem finding different levels of initiates in gnostic texts of the second century.

              But his Bible is different. Because the idea of Christianity having something in common with mystery religions is anathema, it has to be exorcised from New Testament texts and recognised in heretical Christian texts.

  • Steven Carr
    2014-07-31 08:01:13 UTC - 08:01 | Permalink

    In his latest blog posting, Hurtado repeats a claim that ‘gnostic’ texts had secret sayings, while Paul was very open about his beliefs.

    After all, I suppose with all that oral tradition floating around, every Christian knew the teachings of Christianity. It was only those (non-canonical) ‘gnostics’ who had secret mysteries…..

    The idea that Paul and other Christian leaders had secret mysteries now told to ordinary believers runs across the story of open oral tradition, where Paul didn’t write stuff because everybody already knew it.

    I posted the following, which has not got through ‘moderation’ – I have no idea why. Perhaps it is because it is full of facts.

    Paul tells the Corinthians that there were teachings held back from them. They were only ready for the ‘milk’

    Paul in Phil 4:12 uses the word ‘mueo’ – a technical word used in the initiation rites of pagan mystery religions,

    Even Clement of Alexandria praises secrecy, writing in Stromata 5 ‘Rightly then, Plato, in the Epistles, treating of God, says: “We must speak in enigmas that should the tablet come by any mischance on its leaves either by sea or land, he who reads may remain ignorant.”

    There was more to Christianity than was written down in the Epistles. There were secrets known only to the ‘teleioi’

  • Neil Godfrey
    2014-07-31 10:03:01 UTC - 10:03 | Permalink

    Reminder to review our “Comments and Moderation” statement before posting. I have deleted more comments to avoid issues we have experienced in the past when some commenters would use replies to discuss their own pet topics with minimal relevance to the post, and some would pick up on new ideas but take them at length into a new direction adding nothing to the main arguments.

    Don’t expect consistency. That’s just how it is.

  • Gabriel
    2014-08-01 11:56:37 UTC - 11:56 | Permalink

    Hi Neil,

    I saw this today in Nassim Taleb’s twitter and thought about you and the state of theology…

    …..pbs.twimg.com/media/Bt82r2qCAAIGNN2.jpg [Link no longer active, 17th August, 2015 — Neil]


    • Neil Godfrey
      2014-08-01 21:51:43 UTC - 21:51 | Permalink

      Good one. It fits well with a post I intend to do comparing biblical studies with the theme of Andrewski’s book, “Social Sciences as Sorcery”.

  • Jaime
    2014-08-03 05:05:32 UTC - 05:05 | Permalink

    Sorry: this is admittedly rather a morbid and dark perspective, but perhaps a quotation from Max Planck may be apropos here?

    “Die Wahrheit triumphiert nie, ihre Gegner sterben nur aus.”


  • John Wagenseil
    2014-08-04 00:42:49 UTC - 00:42 | Permalink

    Almost a decade ago, I wrote to Dr. Steve Mason about having found some anomalies in vocabulary distribution in the works attributed to Flavius Josephus, sent him my results and suggested collaboration with someone better trained in statistics or signal theory than I was, would be a useful and productive field of research. My results seemed to confirm H St. J. Thackeray’s contention about the multiple authorship of Jewish War and Jewish Antiquities (See Josephus, Man and Historian, V). (of course, I used a digitized copy of the Greek text)

    I received a several page long reply saying he was so busy he did not have time to peruse something done by an amateur. Only someone who was an acknowledged expert with years of study in an approved curriculum drawn up by previously acknowledged experts was qualified to add to the consensus of correct conclusions. The use non traditional, untested, “scientific” techniques, not tested by generations of properly qualified scholars would be suspect. In any case, a simple word manual count study had already been done obviating the need for any one to apply advanced mathematical methods or computer aided analysis to the study of Josephus texts.

    With all due respect to Dr Mason, he seems not to have progressed much beyond medieval scholasticism.

    Perhaps this is the reason why no one in academic theology or classical studies has made a serious attempt to follow up or extend Gary Goldberg, PhD findings (Testimonium Flavianum and the Emmaus narrative in the Gospel of Luke, 1995). Dr Goldberg is a physicist which somehow disqualifies him from studying Greek texts.

    Similarly, after another physicist, Wade Blocker, PhD, released an English language translation of Psuedo-Hegisippus (https://archive.org/search.php?
    query=mediatype%3Atexts%20AND%20subject%3A%22English%20translation%20of%20PseudoHegisippus%22 or http://freelibs.org/texts/PseudoHegesippusWadeBlockerTranslation.html or http://www.tertullian.org/fathers/hegesippus_00_eintro.htm to the Internet over ten years ago, the number of publications dealing with this text rapidly declined, presumably because an scientist who dared learn some Latin, had tainted the purity of the theologian’ s formerly closed playing field.

    This is interesting further reading:




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