Category Archives: The Jesus Process


2013-02-12

The Charge of Denialism and Cognitive Dissonance

by Tim Widowfield

An argument to end all arguments

David Hillman recently commented:

Hangin' From Albert Einstein's Proof

[Dice] Hangin’ From Albert Einstein’s Proof (Photo credit: voteprime)

In real intellectual arguments the accusation of denialism does not help at all. In the argument for example over the philosophical foundations of quantum mechanics, was Einstein a dice denier, Bohr a reality denier. Such accusations would not have advanced the argument.

I do actually suspect that McGrath’s use of the term is an immoral smear to avoid addressing the arguments, and if I could ever work out what Hoffmann is attempting to communicate I might suspect the same of him.

Of course, advancing the argument is not the aim, is it? They charge mythicsts with denialism in order to terminate the argument. “There is nothing to argue about,” they mean to say. “Talk to the hand.”

Being lumped in with conspiracy theorists, climate-change hoaxers, birthers, and Holocaust-deniers isn’t some unfortunate afterthought or an unintended consequence; it’s the main reason they do it.

As far as what Hoffmann is attempting to communicate — well, it’s essentially this: He doesn’t like “Mythtics.” His tirade from 8 February makes it clear. His dislike seems to have gone well beyond any rational explanation. It has certainly dissolved all norms of polite social behavior. I, for one, would forgive his departure from normal, sane human discourse — if any of what he was saying were true.

A Godfrey of his own creation

Hoffmann has created his own mythical Godfrey who lives in the enchanted land of Vridar. Hoffy doesn’t like this Pseudo-Godrey.

green-eggs-and-ham

I do not like that pseudo-Godfrey

He does not like his posts on Paul.

He does not like them, not at all.

Hoffy tells us all day long,

Pseudo-Godfrey is quite wrong.

He does not like his exegesis.

He does like his take on Jesus.

Even quoting Shelby Spong,

Pseudo-Godfrey’s very wrong.

He hates his manner, so uncouth.

He hates how he distorts the truth.

Hoffy ever sings this song,

Pseudo-Godfrey’s always wrong.

(He would forgive them all, you know,

If only they’d agree with Joe.)

However, you can’t blame Pseudo-Godfrey; he’s just like every other mythicist. They are all:

read more »


2013-02-05

Historical Reconstruction or a “Mad House”?

by Tim Widowfield

“He is unlike any man you have ever seen . . .”

If you’ve ever watched the original Planet of the Apes, you no doubt remember the scene in which the Tribunal of the National Academy questions Charlton Heston (Taylor, aka “Bright Eyes”). None of Taylor’s explanations make any sense to the tribunal, of course. If fact, the disturbing testimony causes them to assume the position.

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil

Later we discover that the Minister of Science and Chief Defender of the Faith, Dr. Zaius, knows a great deal more than he at first let on. From the 1967 shooting script:

                                TAYLOR
			I told the truth at that 'hearing' of yours.

				ZAIUS
			You lied. Where is your tribe?

				TAYLOR
			My tribe, as you call it, lives on another
			planet in a distant solar system.

				ZAIUS
			Then how is it we speak the same language?
				(suddenly intense)
			Even in your lies, some truth slips
			through! That mythical community you're
			supposed to come from -- 'Fort Wayne'?

				TAYLOR
			What about it?

				ZAIUS
			A fort! Unconsciously, you chose a name
			that was belligerent.

“Even in your lies, some truth slips through!”

I often think of those two scenes — Taylor’s hearing and its aftermath — when I’m reading up on the historical Jesus. Very few modern critical scholars believe that Mark is telling the truth about the splitting of the firmament and the booming voice from heaven at the baptism. Yet, “even in [Mark’s] lies, some truth slips through.”

Consider R Joseph Hoffmann’s assertion in his latest post.

read more »


2012-08-30

Did Jesus exist for minimalist and Jesus Process member Philip Davies?

by Neil Godfrey

Emeritus Professor Philip Davies has not been able to “resist making a contribution to the recent spate of exchanges between scholars about the existence of Jesus” in an opinion piece titled Did Jesus Exist? on The Bible and Interpretation website. It is a question that he says “has always been lurking within New Testament scholarship generally”, though the occasion of his essay appears to be the recent set of exchanges over the views of Bart Ehrman, Maurice Casey and Thomas L. Thompson on that website along with some thoughts on the recently released ‘Is This Not the Carpenter?’.

(Since Davies was also announced as a member of The Jesus Process (c) (TJP), it is encouraging to see someone from that august body addressing the tactic of the gutter rhetoric that we have endured recently from other TJP members Joseph Hoffmann, Maurice Casey and Stephanie Fisher. It would be nice to hope that Davies’ article can mark a turn for the better from that quarter at least.)

Philip Davies is (in)famous for his 1992 publication In Search of ‘Ancient Israel’ (partly outlined on vridar.info) that is reputed to have brought “minimalist” arguments on the Old Testament to a wider scholarly (and public) awareness. In Did Jesus Exist? Davies says he has “often thought how a ‘minimalist’ approach might transfer to the New Testament, and in particular the ‘historical Jesus’”, and infers that the collection of articles in ‘Is This Not the Carpenter?’ is an appropriate way to open the question.

(I don’t think it is all that difficult to apply a “minimalist” approach to the New Testament: it’s a simple matter of approaching the data with the same logical validity and consistency — the avoidance of circularity [and circularity of method is confessed by several historical Jesus/NT scholars] in particular. The hard part is in acknowledging the circularity given our cultural conditioning.)

.

NT studies “not a normal case”, ad hominem rhetoric, and hope

He points out that what is uncontroversial in any other field of ancient history runs into trouble when suggested in the field of New Testament studies (my emphasis): read more »


2012-07-14

The crazy attacks on Vridar

by Neil Godfrey
Updated and slightly revised about 3 hours after original posting.

This is crazy. A couple of blokes, laymen, have a hobby. They love to engage with biblical scholarly literature and to learn and understand all they can about a book that is important to Western culture. They enjoy sharing what they read with others who have similar interests. I always understood scholars were too busy to be bothered with whatever lay people did with any of their ideas. Who cares what every Trish, Dot and Hanna think and say?

So why do a few scholars sometimes go out of their way to publicly attack this blog? Why the insults and even the curses wishing our children dead (which even their students learn to repeat*)?

Why should anyone care if we — or anyone else — think Jesus was probably not historical or if we say we can’t decide one way or the other on the question? How can we explain scholars resorting to insult because we are less certain and more questioning about some details?

I have said repeatedly that my interest is not in mythicism per se but in exploring Christian origins and understanding the nature and origins of the biblical literature. I cannot prove Jesus did not exist and have no interest in bothering to try.

I am as much, and no more, a mythicist as is Professor Thomas L. Thompson. Thompson does not argue for or against the historicity of Jesus but he does argue a case for understanding the biblical literature and the ideas within it in a certain way, and he does from time to time point to the potential implications this understanding has for the question of the historicity of Jesus.

My arguments about methodology are for most part an application of Thompson’s and other minimalist scholars logic to the New Testament.

Accordingly I have questioned the fundamental assumptions of NT scholarship that addresses the historical Jesus and Christian origins. I have also pointed out the logical fallacies riddling many of those scholarly studies.

But I have also shared much of what I have found most interesting in those learned works.

I — and even moreso Tim — have spent a good amount of time learning the fundamentals of the biblical languages, using the standard scholarly references, and attempting to keep up with current ideas as well as digging into those of the past. It’s a hobby. But we are serious about it and love to share what we learn or wonder about.


We stand outside the guild. We have not been trained in the “correct answers” and “the right questions” to ask or the “correct way” to frame the discussions.

One sometimes wonders if it’s because we have done a little homework and have a fair idea of what we are talking about when we apply critical analysis to certain modern scholarly ideas that some scholars find our views threatening. We stand outside the guild. We have not been trained in the “correct thoughts” and “the right questions to ask”. It has not escaped our notice the way some scholars seem incapable of breaking away from stock phrases and concepts in their arguments and appear to be most uncomfortable with criticisms that undermine those taken-for-granted ways of expressing the arguments and framing the debates.

Enter mythicism

If we question the foundational assumptions and standard “logic” of some NT scholarship, what is left? What would replace it? read more »


2012-07-12

Dr Hoffman’s Translation Guide for The Jesus Project (c)

by Neil Godfrey

Given recent attempts by the leader of The Jesus Process to persuade lay readers into thinking that words with common roots are in effect “the identical word” as far as anything we need to understand when interpreting Paul is concerned, it is instructive to turn to what Hoffman really knows and what he wrote about this sort of thing only a couple of years ago.

Before continuing, I should address anyone who may be thinking I am speaking about a “completely different” academic since I have used the form of the name with one “n” instead of that which ends in a double “n”. Not at all. Hoffmann has recently explained to us the principle (some might even call it “a clincher”) by which we can be confident that Hoffmann and Hoffman are “identical” words — clearly referencing the same person.

This is confirmed by the observation that the author of a 2010 book on translation goes by the name of Joel, and our recent guest on Vridar is known as Joseph. Note the Jo root, from Yah or Jah or whatever transliteration you want to use for that Hebrew god, from which the variant forms arise.

So it is with complete confidence I can “clinch” the argument that the Dr Joel Hoffman who wrote a book about Bible translations (And God Said) is “the identical” person who has lately forgotten his most elementary principles of translation.

Hoffman writes: read more »


2012-07-10

Reply to Hoffmann’s “On Not Explaining ‘Born of a Woman'”

by Neil Godfrey

What a response R. Joseph Hoffmann writes to my critique of his thesis (Hoffmann’s Manzer-Jesus solution) about Paul’s “born of a woman” phrase in Galatians 4:4!

  • He makes the most fundamental errors over the meaning of the Greek word involved — errors that anyone can correct by consulting any Greek concordance or dictionary —
  • and even makes flat wrong claims about what words are found in all the manuscripts.
  • He ignores my arguments as if I wrote nothing about the complete irrelevance of his point to mythicism
  • or the historical problems his “solution” raises,
  • and attributes to me arguments I have never made.

One does begin to wonder about the legitimacy of Carrier’s belief that something tragic has happened to Hoffmann that enables him to respond with such incompetence and falsehoods.

Hoffmann published an essay under the aegis of The Jesus Project (C) arguing that Paul was mindful of a rumour in his day that Jesus’ birth was illegitimate when he wrote “In the fulness of time God sent forth his son, born of a woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4). I decided to address what I considered were some critical flaws in his argument. I also had wondered if this might be a test case to see if and how The Jesus Project would engage with critical arguments from an amateur. Hoffmann’s reply is not from The Jesus Project. So far, then, it appears that TJP is not going to engage in dialogue with this quarter at least.

Hoffmann is clear. He has no need or interest in engaging with any mythicist arguments, period. Mythicist arguments have all been adequately addressed in 1912 by Shirley Jackson Case, he informs his readers. His loathing for mythicists is transparent by his regular use of his derogatory epithet, “mythtics.” “Ticks” fits comfortably into his denigration of mythicists as “disease carrying mosquitoes” and “buggers”.

Damascus Road Conversion

Hoffmann, who once sat comfortably with mythicism, has had his Damascus Road conversion and now seeks to destroy that which he once entertained. (See, for example, the way R. Joseph Hoffmann has turned from hot to cold in his dealings with D. M. Murdock.)

So all Hoffmann does by way of rejoinder to my post is imply that I merely “use arguments cobbled together from” mythicists. That (false) claim settles the matter in his view, it seems, and means he has no need to address anything I argued. He cannot even bring himself to use my name, so he calls me “Vridar” (– and on his own blog he regularly misspells my name, apparently deliberately, for some curious reason).

In other words, he is not interested in dialogue or engaging with mythicist arguments.

In actual fact I used arguments and quotations from earlier books by hostile anti-mythicist Ehrman, and even Hoffmann’s himself, as a supporting springboard from which to make my own points. At one point I quoted from mythicist Zindler’s unique tackling of the legitimacy of the claims that the Talmudic literature has relevance for genuine traditions about the historical Jesus. If Zindler’s arguments are correct then Hoffmann’s case is seriously undermined. Hoffmann, of course, completely ignored those arguments. I also mentioned in passing a minor point or two by Doherty but I did not present any of Doherty’s own in-depth (chapter-length) addressing various questions surrounding Galatians 4:4.

So Hoffmann ignores or pejoratively labels the arguments in my post and does little more than use his “reply” to repeat his own case and toss more invective at mythicists.

That’s hardly dialogue. And it’s certainly not dialogue with TJP. If we had any earlier misgivings about the tone, intent and tactics of TJP we can begin to have confidence we were not misled.

Hoffmann begins:

Rather than being an exegesis or explanation of the passage, it is predictably–in the style of mythtic assessments–an attempt to show how the interpretation is wrong, using arguments cobbled together from other mythicists, namely Earl Doherty and Frank Zindler and a gratuitous salute to a not very cogent passage from Bart Ehrman’s The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture. read more »


2012-07-07

Hoffmann’s Mamzer-Jesus Solution to Paul’s “Born of a Woman”

by Neil Godfrey

In a recent blogpost, “Born of a Woman”: Paul’s Perfect Victim and the Historical Jesus, Joseph Hoffmann argued that as early as the 50s C.E. the apostle Paul was so disturbed by gossip about Jesus being born of an adulterous relationship that he had a “need to deal with it” in his letter to the Galatians. And that’s why he wrote in chapter 4 verse 4

. . . . when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law . . . .

It is easy to dismiss his explanation as “not persuasive” or “speculative” but it is also important, I think, to be able to put one’s finger on precisely why a proposition is “not persuasive” or insubstantial. The effort of thinking it through may even lead one to appreciate that perhaps there is more to the argument than first appears on the surface. But even if one finds nothing of value in it, the exercise of examining it methodically can only be a good thing. Scoffing, saying something is bunk or absurd, relying on a vague feeling that something is “not persuasive”, are cheap substitutes for argument.

So primarily for my own benefit I undertook to examine methodically Hoffmann’s view of Galatians 4:4. The post became very long so I have no illusions that it will be read by anyone except obsessive-compulsive personality types.

I will discuss the points of Hoffmann’s argument in the order he presents them.

Cover of "The Jesus Legend"

Cover of The Jesus Legend

But before he offers his own explanation he curiously asserts that “mythicists have a special antipathy” for this verse. I am sure this charge is news to (erstwhile) mythicist G. A. Wells, for whom Hoffmann once wrote a foreword (The Jesus Legend). Aren’t most mythical persons understood to have been born of women? A couple of Greek characters were born from father Zeus directly — one from his thigh and another from his head. Some Egyptian myths have hermaphrodites giving birth. But these are the exceptions. The family trees of mythical persons being born of women in Greek, Roman and a host of other cultures are labyrinthine.

Likewise Earl Doherty has written that the concept of Christ “coming into existence” or “being made” from a woman was surely derived the same way Paul says he acquired all his other information about Christ — from revelation, in particular revelation from the scriptures (Isaiah 7:14).

And don’t forget the Book of Revelation’s depiction of a woman giving birth in heaven. Indeed, one of the themes in the letter to the Galatians itself is the contrast between Jews who have a mundane birth and those they persecute who had a different kind of birth.

So let’s move on to Hoffmann’s actual arguments. He begins by establishing the security of the passage.

.

No serious suggestion of interpolation?

. . . . there is no serious suggestion that it is interpolated or “unoriginal” to the letter. read more »


2012-06-26

The New Apologists: R. Joseph Hoffmann and friends on a rescue mission for the “Jesus of history”

by Neil Godfrey

Ken Humphreys has posted his response to The Jesus Process (C) trio: The New Apologists: R. Joseph Hoffmann and friends on a rescue mission for the “Jesus of History”. . . .

A trio of Jesus myth denouncers from the world of academe have rushed into the breach opened up by the failure of Bart Ehrman’s final solution to the problem of Jesus’ existence (Listen, he was a small-time deluded doom merchant who thought he was king, so there). Professors Hoffmann and Casey, and a young academic who worked for Casey, Stephanie Louise Fisher, have come to Ehrman’s support with a few dubious arguments in favour of a historical Jesus and a visceral attack on Jesus mythicists as a thoroughly bad crew. . . . .


2012-06-24

Hoffmann’s Ersatz Response to Mythicism

by Neil Godfrey

The opening publication of R. Joseph Hoffmann, the leader of “The Jesus Process: A Consultation on the Historical Jesus”, is a curious puzzle of blended words and concepts that have the power to overwhelm his choir with the sense that they are listening to a view so original, unique and erudite that they are bound to think:

Now here is our prophet! I do not understand what he is saying but it is clearly incomprehensibly deep. I must bookmark this and tackle it again another day when I will not feel so intellectually incompetent if I do not understand his every word. Till then, I will highly praise and recommend it to others . . . .

Unless I have misunderstood Hoffmann’s publication (he speaks of his blog post as an “essay” “now published!” along with much terminological pretentiousness such as “Process”, “Consultation”, copyright insignia) he almost entirely avoids the question of whether or not Christianity began with an historical Jesus. That appears not to be his intention at all. For Hoffmann, the historicity of Jesus is a given. Hoffmann describes his essay

as a preface of sorts to a more ambitious project on the myth theory itself and what we can reliably know – if anything — about the historical Jesus.

The question of what we can know about the historical Jesus has been the starting point of all hitherto quests we have seen for the historical Jesus. Necessarily it begins with the assumption that there is indeed an historical Jesus to know about.

Hoffmann sums up the myth theory itself as

largely incoherent, insufficiently scrupulous of historical detail, and based on improbable bead-string analogies . . . . [guilty of] methodological sloppiness with respect to the sources and their religious contexts . . . . [and] almost entirely based on an argument from silence, especially the “silence” of Paul.

One has to wonder why any such theory is deserving of any scholarly attention at all or how Hoffmann himself can ever justify his own history of support for the mythicist team.

If the fear is that a misguided public are ignorantly being persuaded by arguments so inept, then why not present a simple and direct point by point exposure of the sham? Hoffmann would respond to this question by declaring that such point by point exposures have been published since 1912 —

  • S. J. Case, The Historicity of Jesus (Chicago, 1912)
  • F. C. Conybeare, The Historical Christ (London, 1914)
  • Maurice Goguel, Jesus the Nazarene, Myth or History (London 1928; rpt. Amherst, 2008)
  • R. T. France, The Evidence for Jesus (London, 1986)
  • Morton Smith, “The Historical Jesus,” in Jesus in History and Myth, ed. R.J. Hoffman and G.A Larue (Amherst, 1986)

Yet bizarrely the same R. Joseph Hoffmann who writes in his Jesus Process essay that Goguel’s arguments are a “clear refutation” of mythicism, and who in the Introduction in a reprint of Goguel’s book wrote that

Goguel poses real challenges to the theory that Jesus never existed (p. 35)

also wrote on this blog two years ago that Goguel’s arguments were “weak and dated“, that the reprint of his book had “historical interest” but was otherwise “pretty insignificant“, that to demolish his arguments, as Doherty has done, is nothing worth mentioning, and that the myth theory is kept at arms length from academia for reasons other than its intrinsic merits: read more »