2014-10-25

Casey’s Calumny Continued: Response Concluded

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by Neil Godfrey

Maurice Casey continues:

A number of Godfrey’s comments on himself when he was a member of the Worldwide Church of God are sufficiently similar to his comments on scholars as to give the impression that not only has he no clue about critical scholars, which is obvious from his many comments, but that he is basically expressing rejection of his former self. For example, he comments:

‘Only by lazy assumptions about their sources can biblical “historians” declare Jesus’ crucifixion a “fact of history”…” [Link is to the original source for this quotation]

Godfrey, however, comments on his previous self:

‘As a fundamentalist WCG believer I believed I had all the big answers to the big questions of life. I simply shut my mind to any idea that questioned those answers. In a little more detail, he comments on his movement out of the Worldwide Church of God in the 1980s, ‘So I seriously studied the origins and nature of the Bible for the first time in my life. Strange (or just lazy or cowardly or both?) that I had spent my whole life studying its content . . . but all that time I never before thought to study in any real depth, and with true open-minded honesty, the origins of that content.’

I do not doubt that these are fair comments on Blogger Godfrey, but that is no excuse for him to attribute similar habits to critical scholars. (p. 31)

(Well I’ve never accused biblical scholars of being cowardly but it would strengthen Casey’s argument if I had.)

When Casey originally posted this criticism on Hoffmann’s blog I pointed out — see the subsection Did Not Give Proper References in Concluding Response of Blogger Neil Godfrey to Blogger Maurice Casey of TJP®©™ — how he had so badly mangled the citation that he was in fact misrepresenting my words. In his book he has corrected the error but in so doing he has self-servingly removed all context entirely from my words.

Whether it’s laziness or something else I cannot say, but Casey does not address the context of the words he has quoted from my post. My laziness remark was a direct quotation from a biblical historian — one of Casey’s own academic peers.

I was actually quoting two of Casey’s peers making the “laziness” charge. One of them had been working at a university quite near to Casey’s.

Laziness is common among historians. When they find a continuous account of events for a certain period in an ‘ancient’ source, one that is not necessarily contemporaneous with the events , they readily adopt it. They limit their work to paraphrasing the source, or, if needed, to rationalisation.” — Liverani, Myth and politics in ancient Near Eastern historiography, p.28. From my post:  Lazy historians and their ancient sources

There has been a very strong tendency to take the Biblical writing at its face value and a disinclination to entertain a hermeneutic of suspicion such as is a prerequisite for serious historical investigation. It is shocking to see how the narrative of the Nehemiah Memoir has in fact been lazily adopted as a historiographical structure in the writing of modern scholars, and how rarely the question of the probability of the statements of the Nehemiah Memoir have been raised.(Clines, What Does Eve Do to Help, p. 164) From my post: Naivety and laziness in biblical historiography (Nehemiah case study 5)

The “laziness” of building a case upon “unquestioned assumptions” is a point regularly surfacing in the scholarly debates on research into the history behind the biblical narratives.

One thing my cult experience taught me: Never assume what you read or hear is true. Always check the sources for yourself. If scholars assume what they read is true (such as assuming what Casey writes is true) despite their training to know better then they deserve to be faulted.

Am I imputing my own past habits to critical scholars? There is no way anyone can compare the process by which I embraced the teachings of the WCG and the scholarly processes of critical scholars.

Casey could have read my little biographical statements on this blog where I happily admit that I have brought some positives with me out of my negative religious past. One of these is an acute awareness of just how easy it is for me to be wrong despite my best intentions otherwise. Another was a resolve to always strive to double check my assumptions and learn how to validly evaluate everything. If I see a failure to question assumptions in some historians’ works I am reassured to find others who are similarly aware and who avoid those pitfalls. Would Casey accuse scholars like Liverani and Childs of likewise expressing rejections of their former selves?

Always the anti-semitic innuendo

golda_meir-armstrong

Loyal members saw Armstong’s regular meetings with Israeli political and educational leaders as a sign of God’s work; others saw it as corrupt betrayal of those financing the church.

It’s astonishing the length to which Casey goes to find some way of staining me with anti-semitism. I cannot imagine a more pro-Jewish cult than the WCG was. We loved Israel and everything Jewish. Even though we did not observe all Jewish laws we did observe as many of the biblical ones as we could.

It was not church doctrine but many of us voluntarily were conscious of avoiding clothing with mixed fabrics; of keeping the cooking of meat separate from milk ingredients; of displaying Jewish symbols such as the menorah on sabbath evenings; of circumcising our boys on their eighth day; buying meat from kosher butchers; purchasing kosher wine with rabbinic blessing for the Feasts.

Yet for some unexplained reason Casey assumes I have “prejudice against the Jewishness of Jesus”; he builds on that fantasy an entirely fictitious scenario about what was missing in my life:

Godfrey has stated, defending himself from having a prejudice against the Jewishness of Jesus, that members of the WCG followed Jewish observances. In a subsequent post . . . Godfrey gave a rather different account of his time with the Worldwide Church of God. This stressed the Jewish observances which members had to follow in those days. I can no longer find this post. It is of course true that, given the dates when Godfrey belonged to the Worldwide Church of God, he will have followed Armstrong’s instructions to observe for example the feast of Tabernacles, despite making no attempt to observe Judaism as a whole, or attend a synagogue. It is all the more notable that this has left Godfrey with no understanding of Judaism at the time of Jesus, let alone of Jesus as a Jewish figure. (p. 31)

I don’t follow why Casey suggests I ever presented two “rather different” accounts of my time in the WCG. I see no contradiction between the two claims he refers to at all. (All of my posts about my past cult experiences can be found by checking the Authors’ Profiles page, by searching “Worldwide Church of God” in the Search box and by opening the Fundamentalism archive.)

Casey has his gotcha moment when he assumes I did not “attempt to observe Judaism as a whole or attend a synagogue”. Well, no, we were, um, “Christians” after all. Casey seems not to appreciate that there are some differences. But . . .

. . . After I left the WCG I did not leave my love for Jews and Judaism behind. For a time when I was looking for alternative fellowship to replace what I had left behind I made various enquiries about converting to Judaism. I did visit a synagogue several times. When I was attending a local stage production of Fiddler on the Roof I still recall the deep pang of what I interpreted as a form of home-sickness. I felt that that’s where I belonged.

Casey’s student James Crossley continues this same anti-semitic innuendo in his books and especially against Bruce Malina for stating that modern Israelis are not akin to 1st century Jews but are of Turkic (Khazar or Ashkenazi) origin. (This has implications for Malina’s comparative social-scientific study of early Christianity.) I responded to Crossley’s anti-semitic charge (posted both on his and Keith/Le Donne’s blogs) by referring to modern genetic studies supporting Malina’s view. My comment was forbidden on both blogs without explanation despite my requesting one.I do not know the complexities of the genetic argument but I do know that one does not have to be a racist to follow the pros and cons of the scientific discussion; one does have to be ruled by ideology or prejudice to shut down a discussion of the science.

The only reason I can imagine why Casey has attempted to tarnish me with “a prejudice against the Jewishness of Jesus” is that this was a regular refrain of his that he used to pressure those who disagreed with his interpretation of certain passages in the gospels. I had found his arguments for a very early dating of the Gospel of Mark — to within a decade of Jesus’ death — based upon a presumptions that author was “thinking about Jewish laws yet felt no need to mention them” to be nonsense.

To disagree with what Casey considered “self-evident” was, in his eyes, evidence of some sort of anti-Jewish sentiment.

Godfrey’s “claims”

Casey begins by generously conceding that I was “apparently” an Australian. He follows up with my educational background by informing readers that “Godfrey . . . claims to have a BA etc etc.” (My italics)

The rule seems to be that if an account of mine can be twisted against me it will “no doubt” be true, but if anything by the same hand cannot be used to my detriment then it is only something I “claim” to be true.

Keep the doubts and suspicions on the boil.

Godfrey’s contempt for scholarship: “no proper references!”

If you are “N.T. Wrong” Casey will permit you to write in an “entertaining and even naughty” manner but if you are Blogger Godfrey any attempt at a light-hearted spoof will be proof of your “contempt for scholarship”.

The post of mine that offended Casey (or rather his close friend Stephanie Fisher) the most was Biblical historians make detectives look silly. Shock, horror, Casey even faults me for not using “proper references” and quotes me unprofessionally referring to “my earlier post” — with no formal scholarly citation! Well of course, I am supposed to hate scholars so why would I copy their ways? I was writing on the web and I used a hyperlink!

I kinda think that on a personal blog ya don’t need scholarly citations when ya can just stick a link in that will take interested readers directly to the referenced source! I know, I show complete contempt for scholarship, don’t I.

The pettiness brings to mind another classic by James McGrath over my failure to use italics for a book title once:

At this point, Godfrey is either being obtuse or deceptive, or has not actually read Vansina’s books (the fact that they are books but he placed their titles in quotation marks, even though Godfrey is a librarian and should know better, is indeed suspicious). (McGrath: More Mythicist Misrepresentation — McGrath was most upset with me because I had demonstrated that his selective quote-mining from Vansina his left readers with the false impression that Vansina’s main argument supported McG’s point when in fact it opposed it.)

When mainstream professors take time out to respond to an amateur blogger writing about his hobby interest and make a point of faulting him for not using “proper references” or placing a title of a book in quotation marks — well, what can one say!

A ridiculous waste of time

I cannot bring myself to address each of Casey’s points about what I said in particular contexts when I was addressing specific issues involving what I considered unprofessional and uncivil responses by a few scholars and students towards mythicists and their arguments. Anyone truly interested in following up Casey’s assessments of my attitudes towards scholars and the context of the posts he singled out can always do so. Others taking Casey’s side will not care.

Nor can I bother to take the time to answer each one of Casey’s other fault-finding mischief. I am quite prepared to let the record of my posts and comments on this blog stand as a record of my attitude towards scholars and scholarship.

See the first of this two-part post for other relevant details.

I do find fundamental errors of logic and unjustifiable assumptions at the heart of some of the work of scholars like Casey himself: if Casey interprets such criticisms as demonstrations of contempt for scholarship in general then so be it. I also on occasion address what I see as blatantly unprofessional conduct by some scholars and a betrayal of their public responsibilities. I don’t expect those I criticize to thank me for it.

I will list at the end of this post the blog posts and comment pages that Casey singles out for criticism so readers can draw their own conclusions.

But I’m hardly a lone maverick. I think interested readers can always see that I try to draw upon some of the most reputable scholarly work to make the points I do. I sometimes suspect that I even have more posts simply sharing positively what I find of most interest in a range of scholarly works — including some by Paula Fredriksen.

Just two points before closing:

Waiting two years for what?

Casey quoted these words of mine as (in his words) demonstrating my “complete rejection of the nature of scholarly research” (p. 33). Casey tells his readers that the following words were my complaint about him, Casey, taking two years to write a book:

Can you imagine a student getting something wrong in a test, being failed, and when asking why he was failed, the teacher telling him, “It would take a book to explain why you got it wrong. Wait 2 years till one is published and then you will know what is wrong with your answer.”

Casey has omitted the previous paragraph which explained to readers that I was not addressing Casey’s need for two years to write a book but was, in fact, addressing Stephanie Fisher’s insistence that she could not defend any specific criticism she made in her comments. Stephanie simply refused to respond to any rebuttal of any of her arguments yet still insisted she was right. Her standard reply was that we would have to wait for Casey to write a book to explain why her specific criticisms were right.

I have never asked you to respond to all of Doherty’s thesis. I have challenged you on very specific points both on Doherty and what I have said, and you generally respond saying you would need a book to explain it.

Casey has managed to turn my words into an expression of contempt for scholars needing two years to write a book!

Why should anyone bother to care about such incoherent criticisms?

Why did Casey leave out this last sentence?

Finally, Casey managed to find a way to twist my following words into a claim that I “[preferred] to replace complex scholarly arguments with short summaries [e.g. from the fundamentalist dogma of the Worldwide Church of God] that are easier to understand“:

Crossley writes about 16 pages of small print arguing the point that Mark was actually addressing the tradition of handwashing, and not Levitical food laws, in Mark 7:1-23. (A recent commenter was dead right when he noted I was “labouring” with Crossley.) It is tempting to say that Crossley won this point of his argument from its unrelenting pressure to exhaust any reader with pointless minutiae. I say pointless because I know of a cult that argues exactly the same thing in one twentieth of the number of words. I was once a member of it. So I have no problem agreeing with his argument that Mark may indeed have been addressing handwashing throughout, and not necessarily levitical food laws.

Funny, though. Casey left out the final sentence of that paragraph. Now why do you think he might not have wanted to include this final sentence?

Even Crossley says on his blog that he has no problem using fundamentalist arguments sometimes since statistically they have to be right occasionally.

Casey’s work is a character assassination rag. It is intellectually dishonest and factually false. It is a work of lies and slander or, more charitably, the work of a failing, bitter mind in his declining years. For Casey every word from “a reputable scholar” is virtuous; the very bones of anyone associated with mythicism are corrupted with evil. The James McGraths, the Jim Wests and James Crossleys and Joe Hoffmanns and Larry Hurtados love it.

And Stephanie Fisher can now point to this book as the ultimate defence of all her criticisms of me, Doherty and others on this blog.

List of blog posts and comment pages criticized by Casey

In chronological order of appearance on this blog:

  1. Biblical historians make detectives look silly
  2. Evidence for the UNhistorical “fact” of Jesus’ death
  3. Okay, just one more early-dating of Mark critique, but quickly
  4. How and Why Scholars Fail to Rebut Earl Doherty
  5. Biblical historian McDaft admits to relying on hearsay and uncorroborated reports
  6. Casey’s historical method (2): Aramaic and the fallacy of ‘historical plausibility’
  7. Highly esteemed friends and supporters of Steph and Maurice Casey
  8. How I Escaped Fundamentalism — 5 Myths about Ex-Fundies

Now I’ve come to the end of this two-part post I find Ihave the following links left over. I originally intended to use them somehow but I can no longer recall where they were meant to fit. Always seems to be something left over when I try to put things properly together.

2 Comments

  • Pingback: Vridar » On Christians and Christianity, Bible Scholars and Bible Scholarship

  • David Ashton
    2015-04-04 20:18:42 UTC - 20:18 | Permalink

    One gets the impression from Casey that the Fourth Gospel must be “untrue” just BECAUSE it is “antisemitic”. These are flexible pejoratives and not necessarily synonymous.

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