Category Archives: Bauckham: Jesus & Eyewitnesses


2008-06-04

Some “training in history” for Craig A. Evans, Richard Bauckham, et al.

by Neil Godfrey
final editing about 2 hours after first posting . . .
 

In my last post on Fabricating Jesus I discussed Craig Evans’ put-down of sceptical conclusions on the grounds that “no-one trained in history” would entertain such “extreme” doubts as to whether we can know anything historical about Jesus at all or even if he existed. Evans isn’t the only bible scholar who has made such a comment, and my last post was not my final word on the subject. Will elaborate a little on that earlier post here. I’ve included Bauckham in the heading because his “historical” reconstruction of the gospels in another series of posts I submitted here also displays an abysmal ignorance of the most basic historical “training”. Since my last post began with von Ranke, a natural segue would be a discussion drawn from Niels Peter Lemche in The Israelites in History and Tradition. He, too, begins with von Ranke. (See earlier post for discussion of one of von Ranke’s contributions to historiography.)

Fundamentalists will dismiss Lemche because his methods do not lead to conclusions supporting their beliefs, but I challenge them to find historiographical, or even simply logical, rationales for overturning the historical principles he works by. But Lemche is by no means a one-off. After I finish with Lemche I hope to dig out a list of other names from my notes and edit them to post here with similar discussions about valid historical methodology, from both ancient and modern history. read more »


2007-09-19

Bauckham: reply 2 to JD Walters

by Neil Godfrey

A Defense of Richard Bauckham’s Philosophy of Testimony, Part 2

In this series of posts I am addressing the criticisms levelled by Neil Godfrey at Richard Bauckham’s philosophy of testimony, as outlined in ch.18 of Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Here I am responding to the observations found in this post: read more »


2007-09-18

Bauckham: reply to JD Walters

by Neil Godfrey

JD Walters in his Cadre website has begun a lengthy series of responses to my responses to Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.

JD’s words are in black and indented.

Mine are in blue. (I hope there are not too many people who feel they have nothing better to do than to read this exchange, by the way. And why do so many Christians like martial images, like ‘cadre‘?) read more »


2007-08-25

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 18g

by Neil Godfrey

Completion of this series of section by section review and comment: read more »


2007-08-24

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 18f

by Neil Godfrey

Dehumanizing the Holocaust

Bauckham attempts to set the Holocaust in an historical niche designed to make it appear as some sort of historical syzygy of New Testament miracle stories. The conclusion readers are meant to draw is that to believe in the testimony of one leaves no excuse for disbelieving in “the testimony” of the other. This is buttressed by the claim that the uniqueness of the holocaust makes it incomprehensible — just as the miracles are incomprehensible.

Before continuing with my chapter by chapter comments of his book (how many books I have read since B’s!), I thought it worthwhile to ply a bit of historical perspective and rationality to B’s premise (which is really a wholesale deployment of Elie Wiesel‘s propaganda) by outlining some points as discussed by Norman G. Finkelstein in The Holocaust Industry. The whole notion of the “uniqueness” of the Holocaust has broader ramifications than B’s argument. read more »


2007-08-22

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 18e

by Neil Godfrey

Holocaust Testimonies (pp. 493-499)

Bauckham proceeds to wax lyrical over a paragraph of recorded oral testimony from Auschwitz survivor, Edith P. He concludes:

“The most accomplished Holocaust novel could not equal the effectiveness of that story in conveying the horrifying otherness . . . . [Her testimony] discloses to us her world, the Nazi’s kingdom of the night, in a way that no novelist could surpass and no regular historian even approach. This is truth that only testimony can give us.”

Bauckham elaborates in reverential tones speaking of how “deep” and “authentic” is the “unique” experience. Some instances:

“the deep memory reaches us and we are stunned by its otherness”

“in its visual and emotional clarity we hear an authentic moment . . . ”

“This too is ‘deep memory’ that he relives by remembering it . . .”

So how ironic to read the same reverential tones with the same “deep” and “authentic” in the following words written by a former inmate of Auschwitz (Israel Gutman): read more »


Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 18d

by Neil Godfrey

By now it ought to be obvious I can only handle Bauckham in very small doses. Maybe it’s age. I used to love downing a whole bottle of whisky straight in very short shrift but have learned to cut it back to occasional nips if I want my brain and body to survive a bit longer. Maybe that’s a metaphor for my misspent youth in the coffin of religion, leaving me nowadays only ever able to spend occasional minutes at best engaging in silly (ir)rationalizations that pass as scholarly arguments for belief in miracles and semi-human miracle performers. Anyway, if sticking at something one has promised oneself to do is a virtue then my ongoing sticking with this review bit by bit proves I am at least not totally bereft of virtue whatever my other faults. And addressing these final parts of B’s argument calls for every ounce of virtue I can muster. Must reward myself with another whisky when finished.

Testimony and its reception contd. (pp 492-493) read more »


2007-07-09

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 18c

by Neil Godfrey

Testimony and Its Reception (pp 490-493) read more »


2007-07-08

Rationalist Hitchens vs Eyewitness Bauckham

by Neil Godfrey

Any encounter with Christopher Hitchens’ talent with words is always a richly rewarding experience. And while reading his newly published “God is Not Great” I was at times painfully reminded of my failure at this point to have completed my review of the last chapter of Bauckham’s Eyewitness book on this blog. (I really will complete that soon, promise.) Not that I have any reason to think Hitchens has read Bauckham, but some of Hitchens’ plainest observations about religion and reason reminded me by contrast of the convoluted nonsense twisted through the keyboard of Bauckham as he attempts to justify branches of medieval and ancient scholarship against post-Enlightenment rationalism.

Eyewitnesses of a Medieval Miracle! read more »


2007-06-01

bauckham vs enlightenment (rev)

by Neil Godfrey

(i have wondered if the more grammatically correct heading should be “bauckham vs the enlightenment” — but the more i think about it the more i realize that “bauckham vs enlightenment” is the more accurate.)

For those who are not history buffs, by Enlightenment I mean the rise of a rational/naturalist/’humanitarianist’ approach to knowledge, science, and religion that marked especially the 18th century. Think Newton, Franklin, Voltaire, Boyle, Hutton, Harvey, Linnaeus (300 years old this month– big celebrations in Sweden!), Descartes, Hobbes, Spinoza, Locke, Hume, Kant, Louis XIV, Catherine the Great, Frederick ditto — not eastern mysticism.

When I first began reading Bauckham’s Eyewitnesses I simply assumed I would be engaging with a work by someone with a normal academic acceptance of normal scholarly standards. read more »


2007-05-25

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 18b

by Neil Godfrey

Bauckham’s use of Paul Ricoeur

Bauckham pursues the fundamental role of testimony for history through reference to internationally renowned French philosopher Paul Ricoeur‘s “Memory, History, Forgetting” (2004). Before discussing this section of B’s final chapter I want to address a sentence of Ricoeur’s on which Bauckham places particularly heavy and repeated emphasis:

First, trust the word of others, then doubt if there are good reasons for doing so. (p.165, Memory) read more »


2007-05-06

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 18a

by Neil Godfrey

Check my book review list for complete set of chapter by chapter comments

What is Testimony and Can We Rely on It?

This concluding chapter does not sum up Bauckham’s reasons for thinking the gospels may be the testimony of eyewitnesses. It argues, rather, that eyewitness testimony should be more highly regarded by modern historians as a valid historical source. Of course the argument misses its point in this instance if one has failed to be convinced that the gospels are indeed records of eyewitness testimonies.

Bauckham’s discussion relies heavily on read more »


2007-04-03

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 18a . . .

by Neil Godfrey

This chapter is still coming . . . . not forgotten — main reason for the delay is that Bauckham relies most heavily on C. A. J. Coady’s book, Testimony: A Philosophical Study (1992), so I am enjoying reading Coady (along with some of the scholarly discussion circulating about his book) at the moment — hopefully to better position me to discuss Bauckham’s argument.


2007-03-22

Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Chapter 18a

by Neil Godfrey

This is going to be a multi-part reply to a most extraordinary chapter. In a bizarre way that Bauckham would not appreciate, B will find himself in league with his post-modernist devil against the intellectual values of the Enlightenment. The main differences between the two are firstly that B will often be arguing against a straw-man Enlightenment, and secondly that he will subtly shift definitions and contextual meanings of his terms as he proceeds. read more »