Some of my recent posts on the shipwreck scenes in Acts have been referred to another site where they have been critiqued without link to this site thus making it impossible for my original pieces and their contexts to be crosschecked against that review. (Why do some sites do that? Seems the essence of unethical netiquette to me!)
The most space seemed dedicated to strongly implying I was saying that there is no such thing as a mention of a single shipwreck in Greek or Roman history. My whole point was, following Pervo’s lead on this, to give an explanation for why the author of Acts spends as much as much as 60 verses on this narrative in Acts. The critiquer sophistically argued that the reason was that our verses were introduced into the bible in the middle ages and not part of the original. Oh dear. What silly duffers Pervo and I are for not thinking of that!
But the critiquer nowhere addresses the point Pervo makes and that I attempt to underline — the proportion of space devoted to such a story is all out of whack in comparison with ancient histories. And not only the proportion, but extent of dramatic detail to boot. So by ignoring this central point that I was presenting — or mischievously and worse explaining it away by allusion to when “chapters and verses” were introduced into the bible text — the critiquer goes on to cite many examples of historians referencing shipwrecks.
One such text was the passage in Josephus’s Life. I happened to have posted something on that recently so no need to discuss that one here again.
Probably the longest is in Polybius, Histories, 1.37 (one paragraph — from the LacusCurius website, linked)
They had crossed the strait in safety and were off the territory of Camarina when they were overtaken by so fierce a storm and so terrible a disaster that it is difficult adequately to describe it owing to its surpassing magnitude. For of their three hundred and sixty-four ships only eighty were saved; the rest either foundered or were dashed by the waves against the rocks and headlands and broken to pieces, covering the shore with corpses and wreckage. History tells of no greater catastrophe at sea taking place at one time. The blame must be laid not so much on ill-fortune as on the commanders; for the captains had repeatedly urged them not to sail along the outer coast of Sicily, that turned towards the Libyan sea, as it was very rugged and had few safe anchorages: they also warned them that one of the dangerous astral periods was not over and another just approaching (for it was between the rising of Orion and that of Sirius that they undertook the voyage). The commanders, however, paid no attention to a single word they said, they took the outer course and there they were in the open sea thinking to strike terror into some of the cities they passed by the brilliancy of their recent success and thus win them over.
Another is by Quintus Curtius Rufus, History of Alexander, 4.3.16-18 which is not online, but consists of all of 16 lines in my Penguin edition.
Another is in Tacitus, Annals 2.23-24. I can’t find a downloadable copy of that online either but my paperback text gives it 9 lines.
Another is in Herodotus, The Histories, 3.318; 7.188 — 3 lines and 13 lines
Others in Thucydides, The Pelopennesian War, 2.6.26; 6.20.104; 8.24.31 and 8.24.24 — I only located the last 2 of these, 4 lines and
One reason I am no longer a Christian is because I eventually checked for myself to find that many of the claims proved to be false or misrepresentations or misunderstandings of the case being made on the other side. Looks like the tradition is alive and well, still.
Other responses to the critique:
The critique successfully refutes”Neil’s attempt to group all ancient narratives of sea voyages int a genre of ‘ancient adventure writings’ indicating that all such are fiction completely fails.” The critique is unremarkably successful in achieving this because it completely fabricated any attempt on my part to do any such thing. More than once the critique objected that I was asserting there was a “genre” of “ancient adventure” (apparently in addition to genres such as romance novels, satire, history) where nowhere did I ever assert such a thing.
The critique picks up on one point I cited from Pervo that related to a single feature of the Apocryphal Acts (a point so generic I could have made by comparison to almost any other novel) and thought thereby he was countering my argument by citing other criticisms of a more general nature against Pervo’s treatment of the Apocryphal Acts.
The critique objects that I “never really engage [Loveday] Alexander’s argument”. Well, no, I do stand guilty. I never intended to, never claimed to. Only addressed one point of hers as cited to me in an exchange in this blog and hence within a limited context.
The critiquer quotes questions I pose but then proceeds to answer them himself as if I was raising them without hope of an answer. No hint given as to what my answers were or even that I was proposing any. Maybe the critiquer was presented with an edited copied of my posts.
And so on and on.
One thing my experience in christianity taught me was to never sweep details under the carpet. Always check out every niggling doubt. You might find the whole house about to collapse. And it seems nothing has changed in many quarters of “christian critiques” of sceptical views.
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