Okay, just one more early-dating of Mark critique, but quickly

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by Neil Godfrey

Image by Toban Black via Flickr

(response to recent comments on the earlier post “Dating Mark Early”)

Crossley presents three specific arguments to date Mark before 40 ce:

  1. the way he wrote about the disciples plucking corn on the sabbath could be interpreted by the unwary to mean that Jesus was abolishing the sabbath; but since other arguments “establish” this was not the case, the ambiguity in Mark’s narrative “demonstrates” that he wrote at a time when all Christians would have understood that Jesus plainly did not abolish the sabbath — and therefore at a time when all Christians were taking sabbath keeping for granted — i.e. before 40 ce.
  2. the way he worded Jesus’ saying in the divorce controversy appears on the face of it to mean that divorce is not allowed under any circumstances; but since it can be argued that Mark’s Jesus was always a stickler for the biblical law, and the biblical law did allow for divorce, it is “clear” that Mark did not mean his audience to read his words literally, but to assume that Jesus “meant” to allow for divorce for “the obvious reasons” anyway — and this also “proves” that Mark wrote very early before any divorce discussions arose in the church — i.e. before 40 ce.
  3. the way Mark chose his words in describing the handwashing controversy left it open for later readers to think that Jesus was declaring all foods clean, thus abolishing the biblical food laws; but since on other grounds it can be argued that Mark’s Jesus always observed biblical laws on principle, we can infer that Mark was writing at a time when his audience took this for granted and understood Jesus was not abolishing the food laws at all. — i.e. even earlier before 40 ce.

Any one of these arguments, Crossley admits, may not be persuasive for all readers, but together they become an argument of “cumulative weight” and therefore much stronger. The maths proves it: 0+0+0=3.

In one place in his book, The Date of Mark’s Gospel, he says that the first two arguments are the strongest case; but elsewhere he says the third is the strongest. I’ve dealt with one part of #1 here, and will deal with #3 in this post.

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

Anyway, to get to the point of how this dates Mark so early, Crossley can only say that Mark’s Jesus utters words that leave the question ambiguous — is he talking about declaring all foods clean really, or is he taking it for granted that he means only those foods that are kosher?

This ambiguity supposedly makes some sort of case for believing Mark wrote at a time when all Christians would have understood perfectly well that Mark meant that Jesus was only speaking of kosher foods — since all Christians at the time he wrote ate only kosher. It was before 40 ce that he wrote, therefore.

Crossley does not address what is addressed by other scholars — that it is unclear if the phrase “thus declaring all foods clean” is an editorial comment, a later redaction, or even a plausible translation for the context.

Crossley also shuns anything approaching literary analysis of the text (this can be labelled “overinterpreting” it) and so does not address the many ambiguities throughout Mark. Hence Crossley lifts the ambiguity of this passage in question from its broader literary context to make his point.

As for the logic of the argument — or rather its presumption of either-or mind-reading (he must have meant either X or Y and nothing else is conceivable) of the ancient author of this gospel — I don’t think I need to belabor the obvious.

There. Now I’ve addressed two-thirds of his arguments for the early (but legal) dating of Mark. If anyone thinks I have misrepresented Crossley’s argument or failed to rebut it, I would invite them first of all to explain to me what the strengths of his argument are, and exactly how I have misrepresented it.

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77 thoughts on “Okay, just one more early-dating of Mark critique, but quickly”

  1. Jesus likened the need for he and the disciples to the circumstances of David taking the bread from the temple. I would think it would not be a worthwile story if Jesus and Co. were also not in the same kind of danger of starvation that David and his men were. This is not a story of a stroll thru the fields eating the produce grown by others. Not harvesting the corners of the field was not so the general public could have free corn but that those in great need could. Giving one’s produce away generically would be a financial disaster. Jesus was on the run from someone and hungry just as David was. Otherwide the story would make no impact and using a circumstance that was not really the case with Jesus and Co. at that time, would not be convincing. This story has nothing to do with Sabbath breaking as much as it does with eating when one is on the run and in danger…

    “The Son of Man is Lord, even of the Sabbath” seems more to mean that “Humans are more important than Sabbath rules? rather than Jesus is so authoritative that he can trash the Torah etc. Son of Man is a nice way to say…”humans”

    1. One counter argument to this scenario is that if Jesus and his disciples were on the run and as hungry as David and his men, then the Pharisees would have no need to ask why Jesus was breaking the sabbath. It would have been obvious, and there would be no debate. And why was Jesus not hungry, only his disciples? And who was he running from? Certainly not the Pharisees. In the preceding scene he was feasting publicly, and in the next he is in a synagogue — doesn’t sound like someone on the run. But more basically, the story itself does indeed describe the scene as a stroll through the fields on the sabbath. Modern critics who argue that the author was artificially creating a scene to introduce a point about a certain saying are surely correct.

      If we just mak up scenarios to explain difficulties in the text, we end up with a very different gospel and life of Jesus from the original gospel of Mark. Then we are left with the question of why Mark did not tell the story that we think he should have told.

      It is also worth noting that Mark in several other places also has Jesus saying things that do not make much logical sense to uninitiated readers. Mark says that the disciples were terrorized by Jesus thinking he was a ghost walking on water because they did not understand the miracle of the loaves. Now that doesn’t make any sense to me. Mark is either a very clumsy writer or he threads his gospel with cryptic allusions for his initiated readers.

      As for the Lord of the sabbath saying, Crossley could have saved himself a lot of effort and detailed arguments from late rabbinic sources by simply pointing to the logic of the saying itself: if Jesus is Lord of the sabbath he is hardly saying the sabbath is nonexistent or finished. The argument is — as Crossley indeed attempts to argue — about Christians keeping the ways of God as originally intended.

      But as for Son of man being a nice way to talk about “humans”, one has to explain why it is only in this verse that Mark chooses to use it in that sense — in all other instances it is a title for Jesus exclusively. Crossley and Casey do give biblical refeferences to show how humans are to rule over creation, but it is worthy of note, I think, that they can find none that describes humans as “lords” of creation. That status is always reserved for God.

  2. ‘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.’

    I guess the readers of Mark would skim through all 16 pages as it was all stuff that Mark could assume people knew – all 16 pages of it….

    If it takes 16 pages of detailed background knowledge to explain things, how can we assume that readers of Mark were au fait with this background knowledge?

    Or does Crossley not assume it , and show that Mark’s readers were familiar with the details that it takes him 16 pages to document?

  3. Even the early Aramaic idea of Matthew is still on the table! The Gospel of Matthew has been seen as a Jewish type manual of Christian teaching…”The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.” (Matt.1:1) The priority of Matthew still lives for some!

    1. The evidence as I read it suggests that Matthew was indeed the first of the “orthodox” gospels. The sayings incorporated into Matthew were widely known among “proto-orthodox fathers”. It was the first gospel that consciously sought to hijack the Jewish scriptures from the Jews and make them the rightful possession of the “proto-orthodox” Christians. The Jews could then be accused of not even understanding their own writings, that were really intended for the spiritually wise and the Christians now chosen of God as his new people. This gave some authoritative foundation to this branch of Christianity — it gave them ancient texts and the ability to present their religion as a maturing of an ancient one, and not some novel upstart.

      Mark’s gospel, on the other hand, does not have an orthodox Jesus — he is a normal nobody who is possessed by the Spirit of God and adopted as God’s son, or infused with the divine entity from heaven. Matthew had to deal with many of Mark’s “incorrect” or ambiguous details. It was only after Matthew was so well-known, and the gospel interpreted through Matthew’s narrative, that Mark could be tolerated — and people have been interpreting Mark through Matthew (and Luke) ever since.

      ETA: But I agree that Markan priority is not a proven fact. Who knows where scholarship will stand on the issue in the future!

  4. Apparently Paul’s Colossian church were not practicing the Shabbats and not keeping kosher:

    Colossians 2:14-16 “[Jesus] canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us…having nailed it to the cross, having spoiled the principalities and powers, making a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them through it therefore, let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths”

    How could Paul have made this sort of argument instead of quoting Jesus (or Mark, if it were written in the 40s) himself?

  5. Neil,

    Sorry, but I would disagree with almost every premise of your theological ideas. Method? My theology on the other hand would be much more classic and historical to the Catholic and Reformational/Reformed Church. But then my area of study and doctorates is Pauline and Reformational-Reformed. But, I am foremost a priest and pastor-teacher as an Anglican presbyter. And obviously in the place of the biblical conservative. But always the pastoral and shepherd. A lost art and calling in today’s postmodern world and church. Indeed biblical preaching has fallen on hard times!

    1. Theological or historical? The “hijacking” of the Jewish scriptures by the Christians, I think, of little doubt is it not — maybe “hijacking” is not a nice way to express it. This was the concern of the Church Fathers and earlier — to claim the Jewish scriptures for Christianity through an allegorical interpretation of them. Marcion rejected this method and insisted they must be interpreted as the Jews interpreted them, and kept by and for the Jews. Siker discusses how this was specifically done with Abraham — http://www.librarything.com/work/1379714/book/7634434 But it was a more general process.

      I should add that I date Mark according to the external evidence, and hence to the second century. To date them on the assumption of the historicity of their narratives is circular — as discussed in my earlier post on what minimalist arguments have to offer NT studies.

      In what ways do you see the Bible relevant today?

      1. When looked at rationally who would really want to be a son of a polygamist paedophile who forced a young slave girl to have sex with him when he was like 100 years old and specifically to get her pregnant only to then toss her and his bastard son out in the cold and who would later try to kill his other son due to hearing voices? People are fighting over the right to be called the true “seed” or descendants of this guy?

      2. If Christianity had its roots in Hellenistic Judaism (notwithstanding some important influences from the mystery religions) can we really speak of hyjacking Jewish scriptures? Do you consider the epistle of James and the Shepherd of Hermas to be Christian or Jewish texts?

        Didn’t Philo also allegorize the scriptures? I don’t see what the problem is. All’s fair in love, war and religion 🙂

      3. “Hijacking” of the Jewish Scriptures? How could that claim even be made, when the early Church itself was Jewish, as the Apostles themselves. No, this is another false premise. And the use of Marcion is also hardly orthodox.

        The whole “minimalist” thing is simply more postmodern deconstruction.

        As to the question of how I see the so-called “Bible” as relevant. This is also itself another postmodern idea. The Holy Scripture is “relevant” because it is itself, the Word of God. This is a Judeo-Christian presupposition of course. As the Judeo-Christian world-view.

      4. Hijacking is used to describe the historical fact of early Christians (I’m thinking particularly of the second century fathers) claiming the Jewish scriptures were truly Christian scriptures, were about the Christian beliefs and Jesus, and were not even understood by the Jews. Christianity denied the scriptures had any relevance to Jews except by way of judgment. This is what happened. It is surely an uncontroversial fact of history. Many Christians still think of the “Old Testament” as “theirs”, and of little more than historical relevance to the Jews.

        As for postmodernism — there is nothing postmodernist about the historical methodology that was acknowledged by Albert Schweitzer or about the traditional approaches to evaluating evidence among nonbiblical historians. There is nothing postmodernist about Davies’ “In Search of Ancient Israel”, Lemche’s “Israelites in History and Tradition” or Thompson’s “Early History of the Israelite People”. Nor in Keith Whitelam’s “The Invention of Ancient Israel”. There is only appeal to applying the methods used in nonbiblical studies to the area of biblical studies.

        I find it most curious that postmodernism is actually used as a tool by Christian scholars who are openly critical of the Enlightenment and want to reintroduce beliefs in miracles and divine interventions in normal “scholarship”.

        Postmodernism is used as a wedge by Christian scholars like Bauckham, Eddy and Boyd to justify their appeal to anti-Enlightenment and supernatural values and methodologies. If ever I have mentioned postmodernism on this blog it has been negatively. I am not a postmodernist and suspect a lot of postmodernism is gobbledegook nonsense. I deliberately avoided referencing Scot McKnight’s many comments on postmodernist historians in my recent post discussing his chapter on historical Jesus historiography.

  6. You have again completely misrepresented Crossley’s arguments, and I cannot possibly tell you how and why in short sentences. As I have said before, it would need another book. Your objection to “16 pages of small print” – print which is not small – is quite irrelevant. Second Temple Judaism was a largely oral culture, in which cultural assumptions were taken for granted, but we need long arguments to reconstruct them, including careful use of both earlier and (more extensive) later sources to reconstruct beliefs and customs which were not written down at the time. What we reconstruct may of course represent what was a very simple custom to them which did not need 16 pages of instructions in order for them to understand – especially if they couldn’t read.

    Which was the cult of which you were a member? Is your experience of belonging to and leaving it the basic reason why you have taken on board basic rejection of everything which American fundamentalists preach, including the mere existence of the historical Jesus? It seems to be the driving force behind the books of current American mythicists such as Price and Zindler.

    You asked, “Is there anything wrong with me, an amateur, requesting evidence from the more learned than I”. Casey always used to answer unsolicited queries from unknown amateurs. He stopped when he was abused and misrepresented by Carr and an American blogger. Younger colleagues (established scholars in their 40s and 50s) from Holland, Israel, the U.S.A. and elsewhere politely told him they never reply to unsolicited queries from unknown amateurs, in terms which indicate that this is the reception to be expected. It is quite wrong to suggest that this has anything to do with whether questions are “radical”, or a “deaf ear”, though people whom you misrepresent may respond with “scorn” and “insult”, as you may interpret scholarly comments on your ‘expertise’.

    Casey told me a couple of days ago however, he received a letter by special delivery from an obviously sincere British person, letterheaded with an MA and a Fellow of the Royal Anthropological Institute, asking for help from his expertise in Aramaic, and he will answer that, as he always used to, even though professional scholars are a lot busier than you seem to realise.

    1. My summaries of Crossley’s arguments are fair and reasonable. They are not misrepresentations. They are accurate summaries. If not, you would have been able to tell me what was false or erroneous about them.

      ETA: The rest of your reply shows you are quite prepared to write many sentences to cast doubts on my sincerity and honesty and level of education, but for some reason you say you cannot write direct responses to my questions or arguments.

  7. What I have been arguing is that a narrative by itself cannot testify to its own historicity. Unless we are naive we don’t decide to believe a narrative just because it is there. Nor do we judge a narrative to be unhistorical just because it lacks supporting evidence external to it.

    In every historical discipline I know of — except historical Jesus studies — authenticity of a document or narrative is always determined by reference to external controls or witness of primary evidence. That is the case with Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, whoever. We can’t change the rules just because we don’t have external controls for a narrative that we really do want and expect to be true. Even Albert Schweitzer recognized that.

    To change the rules for the Bible — to make the Bible an exception to the normal way historians assess documents and narratives — is not being intellectually honest in how we do history.

    Arguing this particular point is not an anti-Christian or post-modernist rant. (It is not even an argument for mythicism.) It is merely asking that the normal common sense that is applied generally to documents used by historians should also applied to how we approach the Gospels. Yet it seems the only responses I get to this point are imputations against my sincerity, motives or honesty.

    I would rather the responses be to the logic of the point I am making.

  8. STEPH
    He stopped when he was abused and misrepresented by Carr and an American blogger.

    I did not such thing.

    Do you want me to publish the entirety of what Casey sent me?

    Is that what you want, because that is what you will get if you are not careful.

    I will put *every word* on my blog as a punishment for you claiming I misrepresented him.

    So far I have not done so, as I have no wish to embarrass the guy by quoting what he said in full.

    So be careful what you say, or you might find all of Casey’s arguments printed in their entirety on the Internet.

    And, of course, Steph continues to proclaim that Neil made no major misrepresentations of Crossley’s work by her inability to do anything other than claim that the print was not small, while Neil said it was small. (And ‘small print’ is not always literally small)

    That was it…..

    I guess Neil did a fantastic job, as Steph is reduced to her famous whining.

    1. Is that a threat Steven? How amusing. You can do what you like with the material Maurice sent. You know perfectly well you’re not entitled to publish material sent to you privately by a scholar but since you are full of misrepresentation and abuse, all I suggest is that you publish it accurately although even if you don’t it doesn’t really matter as it’s of course from a forthcoming book which will be released at the end of the year. 🙂

      1. Steph continues to be unable to say what misrepresentation there has allegedly been.

        Her continual whining of misrepresentations is simply tiresome, slanderous and never backed up.

        Casey can not only translate Aramaic he has never seen, but he can also tell you if Jesus used a large cup at the Last Supper.

        The whole thing is hilarious, and reeks of amateurism as Casey piles fantasy upon fantasy , with not even an attempt to cover the thing with an attempt at evidential based reasoning.

        Casey writes ‘The following narrative shows that Jesus could have escaped if he had wished to, and makes it evident that he did not wish to.’

        This is a perfect example of what Neil means by people taking literary narratives as history, when a historian should do no such thing, no more than readers of Harry Potter should take narratives as history.

  9. I should point out that the only reason I asked Casey was that I genuinely thought at the time that he had some insight which would be useful to learn.

    No wonder people think of me as an amateur when I make such crass misjudgements as that!

  10. April DeConick has several times claimed she has been misrepresented and each time responds with an explanation of what she sees is the misrepresentation and writes a correction. Not once have I seen anything like this from anyone (including Crossley) who has complained I have misrepresented someone. (The closest Crossley came to anything like this was when he “over exaggerated” my particular reference to the language of “reporting”.)

    But on re-reading my post, I do confess my presentation of Crossley’s arguments is not neutral. I could not resist enclosing certain words in inverted commas to indicate my own view of things. And maybe I over-abbreviated the reasons he picks on the year 40. I could have said that he assumes Acts contains enough history to establish that date. I admit it. My bad.

    But I do believe I have summed up the core of each of Crossley’s three arguments with fairness. It is not in my interests to misrepresent him. What would I gain by doing that? How would that do anything for the credibility of my own arguments?

    How about an April DeConick response?

  11. Modernism and postmodernism somewhat overlap. I would apply the terms in some sense to any one who does not stand beneath and to the authority of the Judeo-Christian Revelation and Holy Scripture. Certainly Schweitzer was a modernist in his handling of Holy Scripture, though he was also something of a Christian mystic. And the latter is not always negative to me, but must also stand below, or to the authority of Scripture.

    As to the treatment of the Patristics, we simply cannot put the whole grid of the Enlightenment on top of them. And our friends statement about both Philo and Hellenistic Judaism is very relevant and applicable.

    And I would agree with Steph, you cannot simply jettison the whole of the historical on some account as opposed to ‘fundamentalism’. And yes Second Temple Judaism, is vast in oral tradition. As in reality much of that whole period.

    1. And I would agree with Steph, you cannot simply jettison the whole of the historical on some account as opposed to ‘fundamentalism’.

      Where have I ever attempted to do this? I think Steph or anyone would be hard pressed to demonstrate that my argument is anything like this suggestion.

    2. And finally, man cannot understand himself completely, let alone the things of God! This last is almost never dialed-in with scholars. Man is the one in the dark, not God. It is here that we need voices like Kierkegarrd, Barth and even back to Calvin!

  12. I have pointed out to you before that a proper response to your comments requires a book. I have pointed out to you scholarly works which take a quite different view from you, and your malicious misrepresentation of this as “cannot write direct responses to my questions or arguments“ is no more scholarly than your blog in general.

    I cannot see any response to my question as to which cult you used to belong to? Is this information available somewhere else, or are you still really still frightened of eternal hellfire or the like?? Is that the sort of thing you used to believe in?

    I shall not be responding further to your blogs. Scholars are very sensible not to do so, because you are so determined to be unlearned and not to read any of the works of scholarship on which the more standard of my opinions are based. I trust that you will however tell everyone which sect you used to belong to. It’s probably of quite some significance.

    Doherty of course depends on all the amateur myth bloggers and Maurice Casey will be responding to all ‘mythers’ in a book devoted to ‘mythicists’ and their background and mistakes intended for publication in a couple of years.

    1. STEPH
      I have pointed out to you before that a proper response to your comments requires a book.

      This is simply the most blatant statement imaginable that Steph cannot lay a finger on Neil’s analysis.

      No wonder she is absolutely desperate to stop people reading Neil’s blog.

      What a waste of time she is! She contributes nothing, except continual whining and abuse.

      As much a waste of time as Casey and his self-proclaimed ability to read Aramaic sources that nobody has ever seen or heard of.

    2. I’m sorry you’ve decided not to respond further on this blog. Your views are always helpful. I’m also very much interested in Casey’s book on mythicism. You do make it sound a bit apologetic, but perhaps that is just your tone. Although I think it is quite likely there was no historical Jesus there are many places where I disagree with people like Doherty and Price. The case for a mythical Jesus of course does not depend on the particular views of these people, so I hope Casey does not spend too much time on critiquing these works, but also presents his own positive case. This is not easy because I think it is very important to examine in detail the epistles and texts like the odes of solomon and the shepherd of hermas. I’m a little worried he’ll spend too much time on the Gospels and it will be hard to convince on this basis. I do think this book will be helpful for Jesus mythicists, because it will hopefully provide some insights that will allow them to strengthen their theories.

      1. Thank you Bill but I honestly haven’t got time to. I really do have to finish my thesis urgently now and I’ve already wasted too much time here. Maurice Casey of course has three books coming out – the first on Jesus at the end of the year, followed by another detailed book on Aramaic and a third on ‘mythicists’.

      2. This reminds me, where did Antonio Jerez go? He also refused to have anything to do with this blog but did pop in for a quick remark when he saw I had apparently taken up his challenge to address Crossley. Since he was one of those urging me to confront Crossley’s arguments I thought he at least would have been able to point to any particular where I have misrepresented Crossley’s arguments — if I indeed have done so.

        Why is it that whenever anyone challenges me to address a particular scholar, and when I do so, they say nought in response (or simply abuse me in one case) and disappear? 🙁

    3. Oh dear, Steph. I refuse to give in to your demands. Ever since I started this blog I have kept my past history with religion locked away in secret. And that’s where that personal information will stay. No one will be able to access it without first clicking on the About Vridar button in a secret location on the front page of this blog. And even if they do manage to break through that they will have to find a link there to my biographical spiel.

      For someone who said they came here to seriously engage my views you have done very little reading about me, my motives and only seem to half skim a few of my posts.

      You must be the first scholar (or scholar in training) who has confessed they are simply unable to write an abstract or summary of their arguments — or Crossley’s also, presumably.

      I see you have not read Doherty. Anyone who has read Doherty will know your assertions about his work here are as risible as saying the moon is made of green cheese.

      P.S. I am beginning to weary of your malicious slander against me. If I am at fault on something, and I am sure I am often at fault, then have the decency to cite the evidence for your accusations. Otherwise I will treat your comments as deliberate personal abuse.

      1. ‘Malicious slander’ is correct.

        In fact, Stephanie has even been known to complain that people are quoting from Crossley’s conclusion!

        Apparently, these arguments are so easy to misrepresent that if people quote Crossley’s own conclusions, they are guilty of misrepresentation!

    4. Oh, and by the way, Steph, you will be very relieved to hear that a cult to which I at one time belonged did not believe in the doctrine of eternal torment in hell fire or anything comparable to that. I left that belief behind when I left that mind-twisting soul-destroying evil nasty Methodist Church.

      1. Too bad, without the doctrine of everlasting death (the Wrath of God) or the “second death”, God is not fully God! The doctrine of “hell” is certainly Catholic and Reformed! (Lk.16:23 / 2 Thess 1:9 / Rev. 20:11-15, etc. many verses)

      2. The church I’m referring to (not the only one I associated with) certainly believed in everlasting death, or the second death. But it understood death to mean death — not everlasting life in torment.

      3. Neil,
        Whatever “eternity” is? and certainly it is a great mystery, any life without God, will be a real loss. As a “Reformed” Christian I see the God of the Scriptures as totally sovereign (See the book of Job, which makes no sense if God is not God!). And the biblical, ‘living God’, is a thing of great fear and absolute reverence! (Heb.10:29-31)

      4. PS..Even Plato thought the human soul was eternal, and could not undergo any annihilation. Palto’s Monad is the souls “unique” reality. Leibniz called monads as the basic unit of perceptual reality!

  13. Steven Carr has demonstrated again that he does not know how to discern the difference between truth and falsehood, as I’ve argued elsewhere that Ben Witherington is also unable to do. I have in fact sent the link to Neil’s blog to several different scholars over the past couple of months, probably much to their annoyance. Can’t tell you whether all of them read it or not – I suggested they did.

    Steven Carr has also once again demonstrated his failure to grasp what is involved in any proper academic argument (or refutation) and perhaps he never will.

    1. My apologies.

      I thought that when Steph claimed scholars were sensible not to respond to this blog, that she was not also simultaneously telling people to read it.

      I misread her. My apologies.

      1. I find it interesting that Steph would apparently ask other scholars to read my blog. Is she looking for rebuttals from “the real scholars” she talks about — rebuttals she herself cannot make apart from writing an entire book that is so complex not even an abstract can be written for it, — even though she can find time to expend many words attacking my motives and level of education, and requesting biographical details that have been publicly available since the year dot in order to bolster her ad hominems/homina?

      2. Thank-you for seeing what I meant Steven. It is scholars whose attention I have drawn to this blog, who have not commented on it. I didn’t pass judgement when I passed it on but suggested that ‘mythers’ ought to be taken seriously as the idea that Jesus did not exist was becoming popular noticeably on internet websites. I think that often when it is dismissed by scholars it reflects badly on scholarship. They depend on arguments which are now out of date. That is why Maurice Casey has now begun the task of responding seriously in a whole book. Those whom I know do not comment here because they have been misrepresented when they write academic works at length, and have noticed that when I did my best to respond briefly I got more misrepresentation and abuse. It is they who tell me to stop taking any notice of it, and now I shall do so – I really really have to – as I have a doctorate to finish.

  14. It is obvious that there is much going on here that people like myself don’t know, and for the most part, don’t want to try. The issue is there a Biblical history, and this has been cast aside it appears?

    1. It sounds like I am reading postmodernism, here, Irishanglican. The arguments are similar to Eddy’s and Boyd’s and Bauckham’s. They are anti-Enlightenment. I do not accept that “all facts are created facts” or facts “are facts for particular theories”. If it is raining I tend to be old fashioned and believe that is an absolute objective fact. Ditto if I see an artefact in a museum I tend to believe that it is itself a fact. When I visit a cemetery at a war site and read the headstones I think it is a fact that all those people died in a factual war that was factually fought there.

      One has to be a postmodernist or be ready to suspend rational values to believe in the resurrection, sorry. 🙂

      All facts are created facts which can be properly understood only when given the interpretation the Creator intends; as such, all facts demonstrate the truth of Christianity. . . .

      Facts are “facts” for particular theories in which they function; hence the fact of Christ’s resurrection can be granted and understood only within the Christian paradigm or presupposition. The rules of evidence and argumentation are not the same for a Christian and non-Christian; they will have different authorities for final appeals, different standards of proof, different sets of considerations which are assumed to be crucially relevant, etc. Hence a step by step argument from the supposition of the historical reliability in the resurrection accounts and its denial is not possible.

      1. Me a postmodernist, that’s funny mate! Yes, we do have to kinda suspend the fulness of just “human” rational with many biblical and supernatural values in the Holy Writ. Note Tom Wright on the resurrection. It is here that “existenial” aspects are helpful…Kerkegaard, etc. The Christian faith is loaded with “mystery”, you cannot demyth mystery, but only accept it!

  15. Hey, these walks are good. I just tried another one and, yes, I cannot deny it, I was thinking of Steph. I was trying to figure out how the hell anyone could say they can’t point to flaws in an argument or summary of someone else’s argument without writing an entire book to explain them. It finally hit me, maybe.

    In my recent summaries of Crossley’s arguments I reduced entire chapters of his to something like “according to other arguments it appears that . . .” Example:

    . . . but since other arguments “establish” this was not the case, the ambiguity in Mark’s narrative “demonstrates” . . . etc.

    Now Crossley expends a good deal of effort in establishing those “other arguments”. And I can’t help wondering if those so impressed by his works are somehow mesmerized by pages and pages of details from such sources as late Rabbinic writings that are not really related directly to the evidence we are seeking, and that this mesmerization leaves them awed by the “depth” and “complexity” of his case. Recall my reference elsewhere to Andreski’s Social Sciences as Sorcery. Andreski dares to compare irrelevant and extraneous gobbledegook verbiage from certain scholars (which I think I recall he calls verbarrhoea) to other instances of elites bedazzling their audiences with smoke and mirrors. But people are impressed by it, just as medieval laity were awed by priests who could speak in Latin and the way some primitive peoples are awed by the mumbo jumbo of witchdoctors — specific comparisons Andreski himself makes.

    Yep. I do put Crossley’s works on the origins of Christianity and Dating of Mark in that category. They are classic illustrations of Andreski’s observations. (I must thank my leftie professor or doctor, Ted D’Urso, who guided me through some post-grad studies at the Uni of Queensland for alerting me to Andreski’s witty monograph.)

    Now, what was I writing about?

    Ah yes, why someone cannot pinpoint my errors in a few sentences. (Although they can find time and capacity to attack my motives and character in many sentences even though they have not bothered to read my profile on my blog or attempt to know me in any personal way.)

    I suggest the reason is that they have been mesmerized by what Andreski describes as witchdoctor style “scholarship” and are accordingly left floundering when backed into a corner where their only means of escape is to say something evidence-based and rational and directly relevant to the question.

    They cannot. And I sympathize with someone who has spent much capital, and directed future life-style decisions, on traveling half way around the world to take up studies with such “scholarship”.

    I would recommend to such a person that they play the game, get their doctorate, and then get out.

    It would be a pity to see the likes of the University of Sheffield New Testament scholarship — or even Hoffmann’s Jesus Project — create clones of themselves, each one of which is so self-indoctrinated that it can never truly see any perspectives apart from those that really have not shifted since the Middle Ages.

  16. Dear Neil,

    This is awkward because I’m not responding from my own office computer…I have not “confessed to being unable to write an abstract or summary” because of course it is not true. A summary or an abstract however is not an argument or a defence – the latter are much much longer and need proper evidence included. I have in fact attempted short arguments at various points with proper references but explained they are not long enough and it isn’t possible to do so properly on a blog or so quickly. Some points are simple enough for me to explain in a single paragraph, such as the date of Pilate being dismissed as Praefectus, unlike most of your demands for arguments to some of which I have responded, sometimes with references to secondary literature which gives the longer necessary arguments.

    I have never said I came here to seriously engage your views or read all your posts. I have explained from the beginning that I haven’t time as I’m working on a thesis with a time limit, but I have also told you that I thought mythicists deserve to be taken seriously. That is why I passed your link to scholars suggesting the same thing. That is also why Maurice Casey is now in the process of responding to mythicists seriously in a whole book. I have never read all your posts – the ones I have responded to I have of course read thoroughly.

    Of course I have read Doherty’s latest book. Particularly of interest to me were his ideas on so called ‘Q’, which he takes for granted, and his dependence on scholarship such as Kloppenborg. Your accusation is as silly as your implication earlier that I use the internet for my research.

    Thank you for telling me you were Methodist and describing that church as you did. You mentioned you had belonged to a ‘cult’ in the post which is why I asked you what it was the first time, but you ignored me. It was not malicious slander. I did actually look at your ‘about’ page a long time ago which is how I knew you were Australian before I ever commented here. I hadn’t accessed the history of your faith until just now as it wasn’t obviously indicated on your about page at all. I found it by clicking on various different things just now as you suggested it was actually available. I see you mention Worldwide Church of God. I had always wondered what your history was as it is important – it provides the necessary evidence of hostility to Christianity which informs all your comments. It is not a reasonable description of the churches in which Kingsley Barrett for example preached at the height of his career as a (critical) New Testament scholar, or even my own first supervisor, James Veitch, though it may of course be a reasonable description of what you were landed with, and no better than the fundamentalist churches which have destroyed so many people’s lives from which at least the majority of the current generation of mythicists have emerged. I’ve just noticed something odd – on that history page there is a comment from 2006 from one ‘steph’ … wonder if that was me and I forgot. Don’t think so – don’t remember. However I wonder if alot of people have found it difficult to find. There aren’t many comments after all.

    I’m not associated with the now defunct Jesus Project which lost finance through withdrawal of funds and also unhappiness by leaders at the quality of people who had been invited by others to join. I am friends with some staff at Sheffield but not formally connected to the department.

    Yup walks are good – especially through the bush and along a beach. I notice you think I’m Aussie – my oldest brother born from Ireland but raised in Aotearoa is now a passported Aussie but I’m still a Kiwi at the other end of the world. I drink with all sorts of friends – from raving atheists to raving fundies and we all seem to get along fine. The only people I don’t drink with are right wing fascists! 😉

    1. actually the more I think – that comment could have been me – it was before I came here and I don’t think I was so completely convinced of Jesus’ existence back then either…

    2. STEPH
      Particularly of interest to me were his ideas on so called ‘Q’, which he takes for granted, and his dependence on scholarship such as Kloppenborg.

      So it seems Doherty is to be slated for relying on the consensus scholarly opinion on Q, and for relying on Real Historians, such as Kloppenborg.

      I suppose Independent Historians slagging people off for reading scholars makes a change from Independent Historians slagging people off for not reading scholars.

      The main thing is – Independent Historians can always find something to slag people off for – either reading scholars or not reading scholars, either following scholarly consensus or not following scholarly consensus.

      And it seems that this book will major on minors.

      Doherty’s thesis is hardly dependent upon the existence of Q, and his thesis must be very strong indeed if the main thing that has struck Steph to date is something which is only tangentially peripheral to Doherty’s case.

      So I look forward to Casey inflicting minor flesh-wounds, leaving Doherty’s main arguments untouched – probably not even mentioned, once Casey has finished repeating that Doherty doesn’t know Aramaic.

    3. Neil, I have just read some accounts by former members of the WCG. I am truly very sorry. I have never read such appalling horror stories, child abuse and more. What a shockingly corrupt sect it indeed is. It shows great courage and strength that you got out of it.

    4. Steph,

      I’m a bit surprised that you would criticize Doherty’s support for Q as this is still the dominant model in the academy. In his new book he even presents his arguments for the existence of Q (which is more than most scholars do). I agree with you that there is no Q and I find his arguments weak. I actually consider source criticism one of Doherty’s weaker areas. He also makes a point of the so-called absence of a historical Jesus in the Didache, but the final redactor of the Didache clearly does know Matthew’s Gospel (I agree with scholars like Christopher Tuckett on this), so he obviously does at least know of a historical Jesus. Doherty states without references that the Lord’s prayer in the Didache is earlier than Matthew’s version, but most scholars would disagree with this.

      Nevertheless, he is seriously trying to understand the literary relationships without an apparent bias. I remember a discussion on the internet where a mythicist told Doherty that his case would be improved if he would reject Q. Doherty clearly found such reasoning dishonest and made it clear that he was convinced of the existence of Q on the basis of scholarly arguments. If he is wrong on this point (and I repeat that I think he is) then so are most scholars.

      1. Oh Bill you know quite well that I’m writing a doctoral thesis on ‘Q’ and my views will be published in due course. Most biblical scholars not specialising in the Synoptic Problem as such, whom I meet at conferences and elsewhere don’t actually believe in a single document at all and neither to they believe in Goodacre’s theory. They do suspect there are sources but wouldn’t necessarily describe their views as a ‘chaotic model’.

    5. My description of the Methodist church was tongue in cheek.

      If you see “evidence of hostility to Christianity which informs all your comments” it is all in your imagination. This is utter rot.

      How about actually addressing what I argue or say instead of looking for motives and complaining you cannot respond in anything less than a book?

      1. oi you! You know I’d have a drink with you – we’re Irish both and you’re not quite the fascist! And we both like giving each other flack. I’d consider you one of the ‘raving fundies’ … just kidding 😉

      2. I’ll shout you a Fosters – that’s Aussie isn’t it? I’m not a beer drinker – gin or wine. Not very Irish eh! I’m very sorry for your wife. I wish her all the best for a quick recovery and I know she has a very loving husband with her.

      3. haha we were deprived in Aotearoa. Wine was expensive in those days. The best thing about England is reasonably priced decent champagne a paddle over the channel. And one particular very dry French burgundy but I’ve only had it once – it’s more expensive than most champagne. Don’t drink much but love a glass now and then – especially with dinner.

      4. Steph,

        Sweet, I have a Foster’s to hand! I am actually learning listening to this debate with you all. Though I am thought “one of the raving fundies”. lol I guess we all “rave” once and awhile. And Steph, if you pray, my dear wife is very ill right now. The blog breaks my mind and fears.

      5. Thanks Steph,

        Yeah Foster’s is Aussie brew. I cannot drink too much with me bad old back (med’s), but I am not a tea-totaller either. In Ireland we used to have table wine at meals when I was young. My mother used to go some to France and back in them days.

  17. Oh Steph 🙂 I don’t know who you talk to, but if scholarly publications are our measure then Q is still the dominant model. Surely you wouldn’t dispute this (although I’d be very pleased if it weren’t so).

  18. Neil,

    I always note how any liberal thought does not deal with Greg Bahnsen’s arguments. Many just toss him into the “fundamentalist” fold, which is simply not true. But then, I don’t bother, as our friend Jim West does not either, with “mythic” so called history. “Biblical” Theology stands own its own merit! Even the work of Bultmann’s demythologization, stood for the reality of the death of Christ, and the proclamation of the Kerygma!

  19. Bill,

    Have you ever read any of the dating of the NT by the one time Anglican scholar, John A.T. Robinson? His last book before death in (1985?), was ‘The Priority of John’.

    1. Not reallly. I’ve had it in my hands and I’ve flipped through it just to get the flavor of the book 🙂 So no, I’ve not read it. I actually quite like the idea of the priority of John, at least relative to Luke.

  20. Here is a quote from a wee blog of my own (May 8th): ‘Prophetic History..and the Historical Jesus.’

    “The beginning and end of history are prophetic, they are no longer the object of pure history.” – Friedrich von Schlegel

    Of course this does not meet this subject and issue directly, but it does show the “biblical” sense of the mystery, the “prophetic” utterance that is much more the divine guidance in God’s mystery and the “kerygma”, or message. “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” (Rev.19:10)

    1. This reminds me: One book I’d like to get time to blog about one day is Revealed Histories: Techniques for Ancient Jewish and Christian Historiography by Robert G. Hall. But it’s one that I can’t dash off quickly. Will take some time to prepare. The point is that “revealed” and “prophetic” histories are not confined to the Bible. (Nor, though I don’t think it’s addressed in this book, only to Jewish and Christian historiography.)

      (There are some other comments I have yet to respond to, too — bit busy to address them all right away. In next few days will catch up with them.)

  21. Although I haven’t kept up with all your demands I have addressed many things you have said in my previous comments. I have also identified some points where you misrepresented Crossley although I have not kept up with the rate of your misrepresenting and as you have either dismissed my comments or denied misrepresenting, and as I also have no more time, I will not do so any more. I did wonder if your description of the Methodist Church was tongue and cheek as I know several Methodists and they seem quite ordinary people to me. I even know one Methodist minister very well and he is very left wing politically and socially and even biblically quite liberal too. But the WCG is a different matter and I know nobody who has left a fundamentalist form of faith who retains much respect for that faith – for good reason. Our life experience informs the way we think.

    You don’t seem to realize the drastic extent to which you retain attitudes which are widespread among fundamentalist Christians, like the majority of mythicists, so many of whom also seem to have been fundamentalist Christians, especially in the U.S.A.. For example, you present decent biblical scholars as presenting ‘bullshit’ when they do not, holding critical scholarship in the same contempt as fundamentalists do. This is evident for example in your comparison of biblical scholars to “silly detectives”, and your comments on Paula Fredriksen. You like to imagine they are ignorant when you do not understand their arguments, as for example when you falsely accused Casey and Crossley and me of not having read the work of any secular historians.

    ou cite selected authorities as if, like scripture understood by fundamentalists, they can be reapplied to new situations, in support of exegesis which has no chance of being true, but which fits your new frame of reference. These two points are illustrated by your post “Applying Sound Methodology to James the Brother of the Lord”, where you use otherwise unexceptionable comments by Elton, and reapply them as a fundamentalist uses scripture to commend Doherty’s truly frightful discussion of “James the brother of the Lord”.

    You also retain some specific beliefs which are more widespread among bigoted Christian scholars, such as when you criticize Crossley’s use of rabbinical evidence, which you do not understand and cannot read in its original languages, just like the worst of Christian scholars.

    1. STEPH
      I have also identified some points where you misrepresented Crossley….


      Steph has consistently claimed she cannot correct these alleged misrepresentations , that she is physically unable to do so,and is now laying down a smokescreen, by pretending that she has done what she has not done.

      I would call that dishonest.

  22. You have again completely misrepresented Crossley’s arguments, and I cannot possibly tell you how and why in short sentences. As I have said before, it would need another book.

    If Crossley has been completely misrepresented, then it should be demonstrable with quotes from his book.

    1. VINNY
      If Crossley has been completely misrepresented, then it should be demonstrable with quotes from his book.

      Quotes from his book?

      you take crossley out of context, quoting a short summary on p.208 of a long argument. As his book is 209 pages long, there’s no point repeating it here. You’re free to go read it yourself as you quite clearly haven’t as you’re just quoting from the three and a half page conclusion.

      If you quote from Crossley’s book, quoting his own summary of his argument, then you are misrepresenting him.

      ‘Quotes from his book’?

      Do you know how mad Steph gets when people are ‘quoting from the three and a half page conclusion’?

      What sort of scholar gets upset and angry because people quote from the summary and conclusion of the book, and hurls unsubstantiated charges of misrepresentation around , because people are quoting from the conclusion or summary?

    2. I was responding to something Neil had said and as I had already provided many examples in previous posts with references, Vinny, misrepresentations continued. Why should I provide examples of every instance or keep up with everything? This is only a blog. And as I have said this is the last post I comment on and I am giving this up for good. I never intended to comment on everything or read everything. I have a doctoral thesis on something completely different to complete. I haven’t got time and there really isn’t any point as I constantly get abused and misrepresented myself. But it has been a helpful resource however for the way a mythicist thinks.

      1. STEPH
        I was responding to something Neil had said and as I had already provided many examples in previous posts with references, Vinny, misrepresentations continued.


        Steph has refused point blank on numerous occasions to say what misrepresentations there has been, while continually engaging in vicious, malicious, spiteful slander.

    3. It is obvious from Steph’s behaviour that Neil’s exposition of Crossley’s arguments was fair and reasonable, or else she would have quoted some good stuff from Crossley.

      But nothing serious came back from her as a counter-argument to Neil’s arguments.

      Absolutely nothing.

      What a walkover!

  23. Neil,

    Yes indeed, in the strict sense the Jewish and Christian “revelation” and “prophetic” are first oral and thus tradition; Moses, Abraham, the Prophets, David, etc. And of course Jesus> Heb. 1:1-2, and the Apostles and the Apostolic Church. And in the written “revelation” and “prophetic” we have “genre”. (Acts 2:42) And real biblical history is certainly spiritualy circular and roundabout. For in the end, the biblical covenants are begun and end “In Christ”. (Heb.13:20-21 / Eph.2:11-20) And in the end, if we miss Christ? We miss God, and God’s “revelation”, “prophetic” and only real “eternity”!

    As a pastor, I always have to see “Christ” at the Centre! (Note, 1 Peter 2:25)

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