Why might a study of the Bible benefit someone “not of the faith”?

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by Neil Godfrey

I think I am expected to write some sort of angry atheist or fundamentalist atheist type response to Jim West’s recent post (or should that be linked here?):

Well, so not to disappoint, here it is.

Jim’s post came to my attention through a pingback from Joel Watts’ blog with a link to my previous post titled Frederiksen’s Fallacy. (Joel calls me a “fundamentalist atheist” — I have no idea why or what that means even. So perhaps Joel or someone might like to explain to me what I am supposed to be. Which reminds me, Why did Joel retreat from all his recent posturing when it was pointed out to him that the evidence for historicity of other persons is tangible and real while Jesus really is the anomaly?)

Well, my first response on reading Jim’s post was “So what?”. What’s the fuss about? I have no problem with faithful Bible believers studying the Bible according to their agenda. I think seminaries or privately funded bible colleges are just the right place for it, too. As for Jim’s argument, it wasn’t so much an argument as a soapbox cry for attention. No evidence or justifications were supplied to buttress his many assertions. So why the serious responses?

One or two spoke of some who study the Bible with some sort of hostile intent. I don’t know who is guilty of that, and I can’t quite imagine how anyone could seriously “study” the Bible with “hostility”. That doesn’t make any sense to me. So I am confused about the responses to Jim’s post for a number of reasons.

But what astonished me was the number of responses from some of the most learned of scholars to this pastor’s complaint. I am still wondering what he said in his post that should elicit such apparently serious responses.

But to one of the points I think I am expected to respond —

To suggest that only “the faithful” might be the only one’s to benefit from a study of the Bible, or even to suggest that the Bible is uniquely the possession of “the faithful”, sounds like a bit of headline grabbing overstatement. Does anyone really think Jim truly believes this? Or maybe he does and I don’t know him well enough.

But for the sake of a response, that’s a bit like saying that no-one today can meaningfully study Homer’s epics because we don’t believe in the Olympian gods anymore.

Or if you don’t believe in the Ideas of Plato you shouldn’t study Plato.

Only Nazis can meaningfully study Hitler.

But I get the impression Jim is just writing to shit-stir.

But if he really is serious, and I have to concede the possibility, then I might go to the trouble of further spelling out that the reason the Bible is a worthwhile study is that it has such a central place in our culture. It is our history and has had a significant role in shaping our larger identities.

I certainly have no hostile interest in Bible study. Why would I bother? I gave my reasons for this blog and my interest a little while back. I love exploring clues as to how the Bible came to be put together, how its parts originated, and what it may have meant to its original audiences.

I find the study of the Bible rewarding for what I learn about the origins and makings of a significant part of our cultural heritage.

It is also good to understand it to help assess it’s rightful place in contemporary society and individual lives.

And if along the way I discover that a good deal of mainstream biblical studies should really be dismissed as pseudoscholarship, then yes, I do feel that is something that ought to be exposed. If I am mistaken, then I am sure the good scholars I address this way will be able to pinpoint concisely why I am in error and correct me. I am sure genuine scholars do not need to resort to insult and straw-man arguments.

And what’s wrong or meaningless with any of this?

And  where on earth does any “hostility against the Bible” appear even for a nanosecond?


Oh yes — one most remarkable comment I did see in one of the sites with Jim’s post: someone said that if all out thought processes can be explained naturally then we have no basis for morality or meaning of existence! Hoo boy! Is these people really products of the most advanced technological and scientific society in the history of the world? Such thinking must surely be more akin to something we would expect to find in the remote caves of northern Pakistan. The seminaries and private bible colleges are for this sort of thinking. Not public universities — how can even intelligentsia in public universities bother with this sort of thinking?

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102 thoughts on “Why might a study of the Bible benefit someone “not of the faith”?”

  1. Jim West: “Faith is the string which holds the pearls (of texts) together. Atheists and unbelievers didn’t write a word of it, transmit it, preserve it, or pass it along. No one can argue with the fact that the Bible is the book of the people of faith. It belongs to us. Not to the atheists.”

    I blinked, I blinked again – and the first thought that entered my brain was – how childish. It’s like seeming a small child with a favorite toy who does not want to share that toy with a sibling or friend. The child screaming ‘they will mess it up, they will break it’, it’s mine. So, if the faithful will not play nicely – its tug of war time…

    The faithful can keep all their illogical theological assumptions – atheists don’t want them! What atheists are interested in his how the cultural and historical phenomena of Christianity got started – and faith has no relevance to that study.

    I do think that ‘truth’ should be able to stand on its own feet. Its errors of judgement that need all the protection, of faith, that their upholders can muster!

  2. Scripture asserts its nature as “insider literature” and honest investigators have to take that assertion seriously.

    I other words, the Bible is a magic book and can only be understood with magical thinking.

  3. While it might be fun, in a somewhat morbid way, to dissect Dr. West’s essay, I doubt it would be worth the mental anguish. It’s hard to imagine that such nonsense came from the mind of a PhD. At first when I skimmed it last night (granted, under the influence of little bit o’ Glenlivet), I thought perhaps it was a piece of failed satire. If only that were true.

    It is at least worthwhile to respond to the over-the-top accusations and then move on. The next-to-last paragraph contains the most purple prose, so let’s focus there. Dr. West asks, “Should biblical studies become the purview of angry atheists?” I keep seeing the term “angry atheist” in apologist literature, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s mostly Freudian projection. They’re angry as hell about evil atheists mucking about in their sand castles, and the faithful (and furious) scholars project it back on the heathen interlopers. Most atheists I know are mostly “relieved” to have come to the realization that there is no angry sky-god who wants to punish them with eternal fire, where the worm dieth not, for the slightest sin. “You mean when I’m dead, I’m just dead? Whew!”

    He writes, “Essays by those whose understanding is blinkered by purely secular approaches…” Let me get this straight. In an institute of higher learning, using the tools of rationality is a hindrance? So if I approach the text (well, not I, but a real scholar) without preconceived notions, seeking to evaluate it on its own terms, endeavoring to understand what the author intended, then I’m actually “blinkered.” But if I approach it as divine truth and wait for inspiration by the Holy Ghost, then my mind is truly wide open? That’s just precious.

    West continues: “…in learned journals only serve the purpose of bolstering the sense of self-importance…” The apologists really can’t help themselves, can they? Personal attacks must just be too tempting to pass up. According to the cordial doctor, people like Avalos and Ehrman are angry atheists guilty of vanity and self-importance; they mock the Truth and share in the blame for the Biblical illiteracy of the public. I see. I mean, I’ve seen enough.

    Like you, Neil, I find the study of the Bible fascinating. It’s a giant jigsaw puzzle with half the pieces missing, and somebody has lost the box lid. I’m always interested in fresh ideas for reassembling the existing pieces. If I were angry and hostile, I would simply throw the pieces back in the box and put it up on the shelf. I’ve got enough irritation during the day; I read this stuff to relax!

  4. how can even intelligentsia in public universities bother with this sort of thinking?

    they don’t. Neither do they with B and I which is popularising stuff “for fun”. None of the other staff in my department for example, have even heard of it. Neither do they bother with blogs. Scholars who pop stuff up there don’t publish ‘serious’ stuff there – I’ve heard it said, ‘just for fun’.

    Jim West knew his piece was totally indefensible for sure – it was to poke fun at and provoke fundamentalists – and it worked. Only “fundamentalists” take it seriously. The Christian ones are celebrating in glee I’ve noticed, and the atheist ones seething in anger. I don’t care, silly little piece in an unimportant forum. Better ignored.

    1. Um, the quote was from a Stephen L. Carson, who has quite a few serious pieces on his Hypotyposeis blog, by the way. Is Stephen a fundamentalist? Or not a member of the intellegentsia? I seem to see quite a few very prominent scholarly names responding seriously to Jim’s post, including Sheffield’s Philip Davies. Is he not intellegentsia, or is he a fundamentalist?

      I would be careful of denigrating Hoffmann, too, here in this comment. I don’t think he would like to be accused of writing idle unserious stuff on his blog.

      I seem to share a certain snobbish disdain for a new public medium such as blogging, just as a number of scholars ridicule “the internet” as a source of information, and would, I must presume, believe “serious intellectual exchanges” can only be held in the seclusion of scholarly journals and conferences. That being so, I am surprised you seem to pop up with comments on blogs so frequently yourself with some quite agitated and serious comments. And your name pops up a few times too in response to what you now say is “a silly little piece in an unimportant forum…better ignored.”

      Or do you use the “blogs are just for fun and not serious” line only when you find yourself and your friends caught out with non sequitur or straw man or ad hominem responses? Or when you have no response and find a blog comment a handy venue for fatuously declaring that you would need a whole book to show where someone has missed the point — even when the summarize or quote the sources you are trying to defend?

      1. by taking it ‘seriously’ neil means taking it as a serious piece of academic scholarship. Obviously Davies , Thompson and Lemche for example don’t consider it so, but obviously Davies in particular and others have contributed to the discussion without taking the piece literally. Only those who read it literally have got upset or gleeful.

      2. by taking it ‘seriously’ neil means taking it as a serious piece of academic scholarship. Obviously Davies , Thompson and Lemche for example don’t consider it so, but obviously Davies in particular and others have contributed to the discussion without taking the piece literally. Only those who read it literally as an academic piece have got upset or gleeful.

    2. taking it ‘seriously’ neil means taking it as a serious piece of academic scholarship. Obviously Davies , Thompson and Lemche for example don’t consider it so, but obviously Davies in particular and others have contributed to the discussion on an elist and also made comments on the B and I site without taking the piece literally. Only those who read it literally as an academic piece have got upset or gleeful. And neil I said none of the other scholars in my department both with blogs, it’s true. By bothering with blogs I mean keeping up with conversations going on on blogs. Mark Goodacre and Joe Hoffmann know me very well and never have a problem understanding what I say, and nor do other bloggers so I think you know I wasn’t denigrating blogs, particularly the value of some. Goodacre for example keeps up a very useful resource and there are various sites where useful and interesting academic articles are published, like Hoffmann’s for example. Why do I waste my time here.

      1. Maybe Goodacre and Hoffmann know you from more than what you write, and know you don’t mean what you write. Maybe for that reason — and also because you are not kicking them in the guts with insults since they never challenge the arguments of scholars you believe in — they are too polite to pull you up when you make outrageous statements without basis in fact or logic.

        As I have said twice before, you tend to write emotively and use language loosely, with sweeping generalizations that you later say you don’t mean. You then blast me (or Steven) for responding to what you actually write, instead of magically understanding your language was never meant to be insulting, or magically understanding that you meant to express something completely different and that was entirely logical and supportable.

        Or maybe you are so intent on finding fault and imputing motives to anything I say that you fail to realize your own inconsistencies.

        (ETA: and not only in response to what I say — your glaring inconsistencies, not to mention your Hoffmann-like intellectual snobbery, in your responses to Doherty and Fredriksen speaks volumes, as I pointed out earlier.)

      2. and although I think I ‘believe in’ all people, scholars included, Mark does oppose some arguments of some scholars which I support. And Mark and I have debated issues too. I don’t for example agree with his solution to the synoptic problem. and I don’t agree with Joe about everything either. It wouldn’t be interesting if we didn’t disagree.

    3. oh dear neil, actually they are both personal friends. Of course they know I mean what I write and it seems only you and some of your friends have trouble understanding not only what I write but what others write as well. And they know that too. Just let it go.

      1. STEPH
        ‘…and some of your friends have trouble understanding not only what I write but what others write as well.’

        Steph actually goes further and claims Neil misrepresents Crossley and Casey, although she cannot explain how, despite being asked.

        I think Neil’s habit of quoting at length from James Crossley’s book disturbs her. She would much rather Neil cited some praise for the book instead of quoting from it.

        After all, Crossley’s book is for praising, not quoting.

      2. Steven, you are misrepresenting Steph again. She has even SAID (repeatedly) that she CAN explain how I misrepresent C and C, just that she doesn’t have the time right now to write the whole book that would be necessary to explain how I do so.

      3. Steph, then how about you showing the way for those scholars on how they can extend the same civil and courteous manner when addressing anyone coming within a cooee of a mythicist argument.

        Or maybe even show Crossley how he can civilly respond to my review of a chapter of one of his books.

        Or maybe you can show Hoffmann how apply a modicum of honesty when he speaks of Doherty’s book.

        Or maybe you can show McGrath and Watts how they can approach my critiques with logic, reason and evidence instead of insults and abuse.

        Yep, as I said in an earlier remark, I have no doubt you guys are the most terrific of friends and all courtesy when engaging one another.

        Trouble is, too many of you get a bit miffed when mere outsiders (not even “real scholars’) dare to question the assumptions and logical fallacies that your esoteric circle has bulwarked and defended for so long. And instead of reasoned responses, you cast out insults and then complain that people like myself aren’t as courteous and understanding as your chummy colleagues.

      4. The difference is that in debates with them we don’t misrepresent the arguments we debate. They don’t misrepresent the arguments I defend and I don’t misrepresent the arguments I disagree with. That is the nature of healthy debate.

      5. No comment on the point of my post? So a perceived misrepresentation justifies insults? It wouldn’t occur to civilly point out a perceived misunderstanding and follow through with an opportunity to correct it — or even admit possibility of misunderstanding on either side? Just insult and denigrate the outsider, but assure oneself how nice and blameless one is by such civility and politeness among fellow insulters. You posts are evidence of the very issue I am attempting to address.

      6. Neil, that is not how it is done. What you see on most of these blogs and chat is talking about talking, not the transfer of information. I have been following this thread, and it has really pointed out to me the entire pointlessness of almost all discussion. I have also noticed that the biggest trolls tend to have nothing to say. Meaning… if you follow the name links on the biggest trolls you will see that they do not link to blogs where they actually write on anything, or the link is to some URL that is not even their writings. If I was looking to create an ideal system, I would prohibit anyone that does not have a blog or site where they actually write view from participating in discussions like this. These are anonymous people that are wasting everyone’s time, just talking about talking, instead of making points. This entire thread has completely disgusted me.


  5. STEPH
    The Christian ones are celebrating in glee I’ve noticed, and the atheist ones seething in anger.

    I see.

    So Steph thinks you should continually prod dogs with sticks, and then have them put down as being angry attack dogs when they savage you.

    Good way to clear a neigbourhood of dogs…..

    ‘Look at that angry atheist. I did nothing more than slander him malicously with baseless charges of misrepresentation, call him a creationist, flat-earther, ignorant amateur, and call him names. Just think how angry he would have been if I had addressed his arguments and showed where they wrong….’

    1. Now, be fair, Steven. Steph was referring only to “fundamentalist atheists.” I’ve never met one, but I understand they’re very unpleasant and smell vaguely of straw. The only thing worse, of course, is the “dogmatic atheist.” Their dogma consists of no dogma — talk about deconstruction! Sadly, they’re so rare that nobody has ever photographed one in its native habitat. Rumor has it they ride unicorns and poop rainbows.

  6. I went and read Mr West’s post because you mentioned it, and found it laughable. I thought I would make an effort to try to write something that might contribute to the issue at hand.

    First off, the fundamental issue that I hope will one be be made more clear, and will actually be addressed is this. Are we talking the study of history or are we talking the promotion of some group? This is a fundamental issue. Over time, I hope to see the people that are interested in the study of the history of Christianity, get degrees from history departments, not religion departments. The problem that evolved with religion departments is that they evolved over time, and contain a confused lots. There some that are trying to do history, and there are some that are really doing the work of priests/ministers under the guise of academics of scholarship. This is a problem, and has made religion departments virtually useless for information on the subject.

    My hope is that over time, more people interested in the subject of the history of Christianity will get degrees from history departments. That their work will be peer reviewed by others in history departments so that parts of their writings that are not historically methodologically correct get edited out, and the information that is presented is more historically foundationally sound. I Will in the future write more about this topic. But this is a very important aspect to move the study of the history of Christianity forward.

    Let’s adjust some of the basics of this argument for a moment. Let’s say we are reading a book on the history of Egyptian relion. And let’s take a adjusted thing you might see from someone like William Lane Craig in almost all of his presentations. Imagine him ending a book of the religions of egypt that is supposed to be a study as a historical effort with… “and so, when I was 23, I asked Ra to come into my life, and my life has been blessed ever since. And so I would like to take this oppertunity to offer my reader to accept Ra, or at least considering asking Ra into you life.” If this was included in any book on the religions of Egypt I would hope that it would be edited out. Yet it is the kind of thing you can find in supposedly scholarly books on Christianity.

    Now let’s look at Mr. West’s sort of premise in the article you pointed out. It would go something like “by definition only Ra worshioppers should be allowed to write books on the history of egpytion reliongs. Work my those of you that do not believe in Ra is dead and annoying, and I happily say good bye to you.” Again, when you start to replace the object with some other objects you begin to see the ridiculessness of these posts.

    Mr West’s post is find for a priest/minister to read out in a sermon, but as considered as a work offered from a history department is is laughable.

    The real problem is that religion deparments and the religious scholarly field is a mixed bag. with some trying to do the work of the historian, yet others using the guiese of the historian to promote some view of a supernaturalistic group they belong to and want to promote.

    Until we find a way to separate these two types the field of religious studies IS as Hector Avolos have noticed it really dead.


    1. At least with William Crane Leg, you know what’s up. He’s Billy Graham with a better vocabulary.

      What I think is more pernicious is somebody like Craig Evans who smuggles Christian dogma into supposedly scholarly works. I was recently reading his essay, “How Mark Writes” in The Written Gospel (Cambridge 2005). The margins are full of my penciled-in comments, mostly one-word exclamations like “Really?!” He snooty dismissal of Wrede was particularly appalling. I sometimes suspect these apolo-scholars have never read Reimarus, Strauss, Bultmann, Streeter, Wellhausen, or Wrede but merely breezed through synopses and memorized a few talking points.

    2. I am still mystified by the attention Jim’s post received from such prominent names in the scholarly community. Had I come across his post without any awareness of the interest it had generated (I was only alerted to it by pingbacks via Joel’s blog) I probably would have skimmed a bit of it and then would have ignored and forgotten it. What I do not understand is the responses, and the identity of those responding. I would be happy to put it down to some American religious cultural thing, but the names include scholars from the UK and Europe, too.

      Or is this some huge practical joke? Do people respond to these sorts of posts under names of known scholars as some sort of in-joke?

      I can understand a Quartz Hill “doctor” pastor writing up such piffle, but I cannot understand why “real scholars” have taken any notice of it.

      1. I can understand Jim West producing piffle for his own blog – that is his perogative. But for such piffle to be published on a site which has a philosophy (as that pasted below) is hardly funny – its a disgrace to any organization that values rationality.

        “Our Philosophy”

        “It is this site’s philosophy that biblical scholarship is only relevant when it is accessible to a wide audience interested in the field of biblical studies. Contributors to this site are asked to write in an informative and comprehensible style. Therefore, Bible and Interpretation will enlist scholars noted for their clarity, analysis and commentary of biblical topics, literature, and archaeology. In addition, we will feature new scholars whose ideas may receive first recognition on the Web site.”

        “Nonetheless, neither esoteric and improbable positions nor apologetic and dogmatic agendas will be accepted. The contributors will develop a style, vocabulary and conclusion accessible to the general public, student and teacher, and maintain the requirements of biblical scholarship.”


      2. As a popularising bib studies forum, it’s pretty indiscriminate on what it publishes. I’ve read interesting bits by Thompson, Davies, Avalos, Crossley, Hoffmann and others there as well as trash there. But when Thompson Davis, Avalos, Crossley or Hoffmann publish interesting popular extracts there, sometimes it’s written up or taken off work published elsewhere in a proper journal or book. Jim’s extract has generated interested from the internet community, which includes a few well prominent names like Lemche, Davies and Thompson who are part of the bib studies elist. B and I is almost like a biblioblog with anyone contributing. Just wait for the good stuff now and then. Perhaps they took notice because Jim is their friend and is highly thought of because of his promotion and support of secular as well as Christian scholarship.

      3. Shame on them!
        They are a discredit to biblical scholarship and their credibility has taken a serious knock. Attempting to mix serious scholarship with a faith orientated, apologetic, dogmatic tirade makes the site a laughing stock. If Jim West’s post is deemed to be acceptable then its the site’s own objectivity that has been negated. The site is now a discredit to serious biblical scholarship – and serious scholars should call them out on it…

      4. I just checked out the sites policy re ‘In My View”.
        Here it is:

        “The opinions expressed “In My View” are those of the authors alone. They do not necessarily represent the views or opinions of the editors of Bible and Interpretation nor its staff. Unsolicited submissions will not be accepted”.

        So, looks like Jim West’ post is no reflection upon the Bible and Interpretation site. However, to be fair, Jim West’s post needs to be set alongside the opposite point of view. Giving a platform to one side of the debate is a reflection upon the position of the Bible and Interpretation site. The site needs to invite someone to counter West’s tirade.

        I see that K.L.Noll has taken West to task –

        “To repeat: You note the splinter in Hector’s eye, but do not see the log in your own. You need to re-think this essay from foundation up. It is simply false.”

        West replies: “Well Kurt obviously I disagree completely with you. My premise is sound and there’s no need to start from the foundation of the essay since the facts are self evident.”

        Lets hope that some sane voices will prevale within the Bible and Interpretation site. Jim West is clearly out of his depth. If he has some friends within that blog community then he has seriously let those friends down big time.

      5. popularising biblical studies forums which publish indiscriminately like a blog, leave it to readers to deem it worthy for consideration or discussion dismissal. It’s up to readers to accept or reject. The appeal of publishing little bits and pieces there is that it reaches a different and broader audience than published material in academic journals where longer articles are published, and monographs. ‘Serious scholars’ have called the author out in this case for what he wrote in another internet forum and he has responded accordingly (as it’s his elist anyway)

    1. Steph,

      My thoughts about Jim’s piece were hardly “gleeful”. I thought it a good read as far as it went, but hardly a scholastic piece, but a short essay, and really pastoral like. But if anyone notes or cares, I never write myself, now, as a hard scholar, though my doctorates are in Pauline and NT studies. I am always a priest-pastor-teacher. But I do love learning! To quote Schweitzer, who I have been reading: “As we acquire more knowledge, things do not become more comprehensible, but more mysterious.” And, “Thought is the strongest thing we have. Work done by true and profound thought – that is real force.”

      1. I read several ‘amens’ and ‘well done’ sort of things, from people who read it literally and took it seriously – maybe as a pastoral piece, not necessarily rigidly ‘academic’. I can’t remember what you said. We had a fun conversation on Joel’s blog though. And gleeful is a lovely way to be. I’m full of joy and glee when I’m saturated in the glorious solitude of the bush or the mountains or the sea… and perhaps you, with your proof texting and reading Jim’s piece literally, are ‘ultra conservative’ perhaps? And Schweizer – that sexy man – was absolutely right “As we acquire more knowledge, things do not become more comprehensible, but more mysterious.” The more we learn the more we know we don’t know. 🙂

  7. “To the pure, all things are pure, but to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and consciences are defiled.” (Titus 1:15, ESV) Here the mind is “understanding” Gr.(nous). The understanding of God is only for the “pure”, regenerate heart & mind!

    (Since you pinged me, I have answered back)

    1. who pinged you? Plenty of things are pure. Lake Waikaremoana, with its pure clear crystal rippling waters, the birds and their song, and surrounding dense wet layered native bush, the peaks and the serenity there, spiritual home of Tuhoe, Te Urewera. That’s where I go to find purity and peace.

      1. I think you may be mistaken, Irishanglican. The only pingbacks in my post were to Joel Watts’ blog, Jim West’s article, and my own earlier posts. Nothing from me on your site.

        Thanks for the ad hominem quote from scripture, by the way, as your sole response to the argument of my post.

      2. Steph,

        We would find agreement here. What you speak of is what I consider to be the incarnational beauty of creation and reality. Note here the Johannine theology & revelation, (John 1:1-9, etc.) The Pauline Text I quoted speaks to the “purity” of the believing heart & mind, in the context of those that don’t “really” believe, but defile “their” mind & conscience, and thus reality. This includes the Creation that they confess, but really reject. (Note, verse 16 of Titus 1 also)

        (Neil pinged me, BTW)

        PS..I am reading again right now (really several books..always, lol)..Schweitzer’s book: The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle. Which I feel,anyway, was Schweitzer’s best book! I love the “man” himself!

  8. It is really difficult to enter the world view of somebody like the author of Revelation.

    Or the world view of the author of 2 Peter.

    He wrote ‘But these men blaspheme in matters they do not understand. They are like brute beasts, creatures of instinct, born only to be caught and destroyed, and like beasts they too will perish.

    They will be paid back with harm for the harm they have done. Their idea of pleasure is to carouse in broad daylight. They are blots and blemishes, reveling in their pleasures while they feast with you. With eyes full of adultery, they never stop sinning; they seduce the unstable; they are experts in greed—an accursed brood!’

    Can only a believer understand the hatred and bile in that Christian?

    Are atheists automatically excluded from understanding why one Christian would hate another so much that they wished to see the other destroyed by their god?

    Perhaps Jim West is right.

    That passage of hate , vitriol and spite was written by believers, preserved by believers, transmitted by believers, and held up by believers as the Word of God.

    A non-believer cannot enter that world of hatred and understand it.

  9. Steph,

    Yes, when it comes to the Holy Scripture, I am a “biblicist”, though perhaps not really an ‘ultra conservative’..as a certain conservative? But I like “ultra” anything! lol On the farther side, which I take as “certain”! If that makes sense? I most certainly “reverence” the Text of Scripture, and see it as “God breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16). But I hope like Barth, also “God-inbreathed” to me! And I too love the outdoors! The depth of beauty in nature is reality itself! Here I am forever Irish! And since my father was a physicist & scientist, I love certain science also. But mostly people like Leibniz. I am a Thomist somewhat also.

  10. Of course ,Jim West’s article is not ‘serious’.

    Only believers and Independent Bible scholars can understand what West’s article actually means.

    The rest of us have to go by the words used, which is a pity as we can’t understand as the words were not used ‘seriously’.

    But it is great to see that the Bible Interpretating site is no longer tied to the old paradigm of not using people with fake doctorates who work at institutions with no accreditation.

  11. ‘Unsolicited submissions will not be accepted”.’

    They actually solicited submissions from Quartz Hill School of Theology? (accredited by Joe’s Drive-In Accreditation and Car-Cleaning Company)

      1. If anyone builds a website that is not compatible with all major browsers does not know what they are doing and deserves to be shot.

        Just proves once again that Quartz Hill is just a bunch of amateurs playing at a being an educational institute.

    1. Jim West, I see, is listed as responsible for 39 courses run by Quartz Hill School of Theology. http://web.archive.org/web/20100307022426/http://www.theology.edu:80/onlinecourses.html There is only one other teacher listed beside him, and he only has about a dozen courses. Jim seems to be pretty much a doctor of everything from Ugaritic grammar to early Reformation history. I had little idea he was such an intellectual giant. The site also seems to ridicule the notion of global warming as based on nonsense posing as science. Nor does its statements of beliefs seem to allow much room for belief in evolution. Maybe next time McGrath calls mythicists Creationists and Joel calls them flat-earthers, I should call on Jim for support.

      1. I’m using 3.6.3. Perhaps the issue is with this particular build on 64-bit Windows 7. (Although I though the Gecko rendering agent was the same across all platforms.)

        Nope. Just checked it on Windows XP. According to the W3C Markup Validation Service, the home page alone has 105 errors and 37 warnings. I think they need to pray over it.

  12. If you want to see hostility against the Bible then throw Psalm 82 and Deuteronomy 32:8-9 together at a fundamentalist. How will they explain away the Psalm about El Elyon judging the lesser gods for being unjust and making them mortal as punishment, followed by the Psalmist’s hope that El Elyon will take back the earth from his sons (to whom he gave the various nations as an inheritance per Deut. 32:8-9) and “inherit all nations” himself. They’ll show a lot of hostility to the Bible when they read these passages. They will overthrow the meaning to maintain their ‘orthodoxy’ and in the process will be just as against the Bible as any atheist, even Dawkins himself.

  13. STEPH
    The difference is that in debates with them we don’t misrepresent the arguments we debate

    Still keeping up the campaign of spiteful, malicious, unsubstantiated slander, are we?

    Explain how Neil misrepresented Crossley’s arguments.

    Or even tell us what Crossley’s arguments are….

    1. No, I don’t do that Neil. I’ve clearly demonstrated on previous posts various examples but you clearly never understand. And it isn’t only Crossley’s arguments misrepresented either. The funniest thing was when ‘dumbshit masses’ was invented and inserted in quotes (with no reference of course) but not quite naming the author. The implications were clear of course from the content of the post and the previous post – and nobody has in fact said such a silly thing. Neil made it up.

      Just let it go, Steve, let it go.

      1. Steph, if you would like to google “dumbshit masses” and “Dwight Jones” you will probably find the two together in the top hit.

        Now if you return to Hoffmann’s post on Did Jesus Exist? Yes and No, and scroll down to Dwight Jones comment, you will see Hoffmann say some nice chummy things about Dwight Jones’ views, and the hyperlink right there for Dwight Jones takes you to that very article you found in that google search.

        Now would you like to explain on what grounds you just assumed I fabricated a lie and on what grounds you felt confident in accusing me of such here in your comment?

        I must confess that sometimes I find myself questioning whether some of your statements are based on evidence, or just concocted, so you know what I do? Rather than accuse you of a lie, I take the trouble first to ask you for supporting evidence of a claim you made. You will find the most recent example of that in this thread, twice, I think. You have not seen fit to reply with the evidence I requested.

        Now you wonder why you can be so chummy with Goodacre and Hoffmann but why I seem to not be so understanding of all you mean to say. Do you accuse Goodacre or Hoffmann of lying if they ever say something you see no immediate evidence for? Or do you ask them civilly first to explain or support what they said?

  14. Talking about misrepresentation how about his ‘A “disciple” of Wells, Earl Doherty has rehashed many of the former’s [Wells’] views in The Jesus Puzzle (Age of Reason Publications, 2005) which is qualitatively and academically far inferior to anything so far written on the subject. . .’

    Guess what?

    Neil was actually able to show where this misrepresents Doherty.

    Projection – thy name is Steph.

    1. No he didn’t. This quote was originally taken from p.39 n.31 of the introduction to a book by Goguel. Doherty’s 1999 work is dismissed in this footnote as not useful to the reader, compared with the works of Wells. Neil does not understand the implications of ‘rehash’ and Doherty does in fact ‘rehash’ some of Wells’ views, including the basic view that Jesus did not exist.

      1. You misrepresent Hoffmann’s quote, Steph. Hoffmann said Doherty rehashes “MANY”, not “some” as you misrepresent, with the result of making a clear inference that Doherty’s work is derivative of Wells. I have demonstrated the unfounded ignorance (dishonesty?) of this assessment here:

        The time you had some positive words to say about a review of mine on a part of Crossley’s work, and then how you flipped 180 degrees the moment I pointed out Crossley’s own views of my review, has told me a lot.

        If Petruchio says the day is night, or the moon is the sun, well-tamed Kate agrees.

      2. No Neil, “I” said ‘some’ I didn’t quote Hoffmann. No misrepresentation, I didn’t quote or cite him – I said it Neil. You’re really scraping the barrel and it’s silly. And no, I didn’t “flip 180 degrees” Neil. I said ‘some aspects’ of your critique I agreed with and then pointed out where you had misrepresented Crossley. Wwhat I said in the first comment was “Your review shows that you can read a book and make intelligent comments on it, without undue caricature, when you wish to. I particularly appreciated some aspects of your critique of his hypothesis that some aspects of Jesus’ ministry and teaching may be explained from socioeconomic conditions in Galilee at the time of Jesus. I am not convinced of that either.” – “some aspects of your critique” and I had not been convinced by those aspects of Crossley’s hypothesis either Neil. I then said “The point of my last response to you is that I think you are right to suppose some aspects of one of his innovative theories are not convincing. As scholars like Crossley and Casey know only too well, there is no proper explanation of why Christianity began. It is a plausible hypothesis that this is because New Testament scholarship is dominated by people who do not believe in historical explanations, because they belong to faith communities which believe the spread of Christianity was due to the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit.” and then pointed out where you had misrepresented him.

        Let it go Neil.

      3. Neil… I think no matter times you request that she explain what your misrepresentation was, you will never get an answer. This is how trolls work. They will take 1,000 words to explain how they DID explain how you did something, without ever explaining it.

        So they might talk for hundreds of words about the day they mentioned what they do for a living in some prior post. But will never simply post “As I said, I am a plumber”. This is what trolls are all about. Talking about talking. They will reference the subject you are asking them about… without ever giving you the data you are looking for.


      4. Rich: I’m sorry you don’t understand.
        From a previous post, my comment:
        Crossley quite rightly complained that you misrepresent him, because you so often do (see again my next comment below). The point of my last response to you is that I think you are right to suppose some aspects of one of his innovative theories are not convincing. As scholars like Crossley and Casey know only too well, there is no proper explanation of why Christianity began. It is a plausible hypothesis that this is because New Testament scholarship is dominated by people who do not believe in historical explanations, because they belong to faith communities which believe the spread of Christianity was due to the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit. So, for example, Crossley’s review of Dunn’s enormous second volume of Christianity in the Making comments that he “misses golden opportunities to provide more rounded explanations for the ‘big why questions’ which could have advanced our knowledge of Christian origins’” and in the end his book “often feels like a heavily referenced, erudite, and fairly conservative rewriting of the book of Acts” (the review is for ‘Theology’, maybe still forthcoming, so I don’t have a more precise reference). Casey therefore used identity theory in his first attempt to explain the early development of Christology (From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God, James Clarke/WJK, 1991), and will use it again if he survives long enough to write Identity and Christian Origins. It is too much to expect what are regrettably among the first serious scholarly attempts to explain the Origins of Christianity will all work first time. At this level, people such as Doherty, who is not a professional scholar, are too incompetent and biased to provide convincing explanations of anything. We need more secular scholars who are fully competent and not hopelessly biased. Then the cumulative effect of all their work could eventually result in a proper and wholly convincing account of why Christianity began and spread (maybe rapidly, maybe not as rapidly as some people like to think). At present too many secular scholars are ex-fundamentalists, and as N.T.Wrong said of Hector Avalos, “Once a fundie always a fundie. He’s just batting for the other side now” (blog no longer available).

        You then misrepresent the work of Crossley and Casey (again!), this time by reducing complex arguments to your own syllogisms. Of course they are interpreting Mark, and providing evidence in support of their arguments. We need to explain why Mark says, for example, that people brought the sick to Jesus ‘when the sun had set’ (Mark 1.32). This would normally be a dotty time to bring them (there would not even be what we would regard as proper lighting), but it makes perfect sense in a Jewish environment, where everyone knew that we must not carry burdens on the Sabbath, which ends at sunset. Crossley and Casey repeatedly argue that this kind of evidence entails Mark’s sources writing from a Jewish environment, which is again where the Aramaic level of the tradition which you recently caricatured in the case of Mark 2.27-8 is also of importance. Many detailed discussions add up to a large argument of cumulative weight, whereas none of the mythicists can explain why this evidence of Jewish assumptions and Aramaisms is there at all, and I do not remember them trying.

        You refer me back to posts on which you made authoritarian use of selected historians working on different things. Careful scholarly work on the Gospels has precious little to do with Mexican bandits, or folk tales, and neither Schweitzer nor Schwartz had recent work on the Gospels, access to things like the DSSs through which our understanding of languages has advanced, and other recent work on ancient writing practices, available to them. Like us, however, they did have to cope with very conservative Christians, who do believe everything in the Gospels, even the Gospel attributed to John.

  15. This is a lame rationalisation.

    Wells also believes the Earth is round, and so does Steph.

    Wells believes the New Testament was not written in Latin, and so does Steph.

    Wells believes Paul wrote letters, and so does Steph.

    I guess Steph is a ‘disciple’ of Wells,rehashing many of his views.

      1. Hey Rick,

        Ok… is sounds like what you are saying is that “No”, you can’t demonstrate that Paul knew when Jesus lived.

        Just thought I would explore what you had originally said.

        If you become interested in the study of early christianity feel free to come join us on I am trying to gather a group, and offer them the various web tools, that will allow folks that are interested in the history of the subject, begin to work through the subject, and create community created resources, and begin to weed through the crap that has accumulated from earlier uncritical acceptance of dogma, from the subject studied as history to try to learn about the create and early growth of the group as best as we can today.


    1. Wow, Mr. Carr,

      You only bury yourself with ignorance! Steph wrote very well, save for the Gospel of John, which could have the priory over the Synoptic’s?…as wrote John A.T. Robinson.

      But the origin of early Christianity is very problematic for all those in the Historical Jesus work. Just shouting “myth” won’t stand real history for guys like you “mythicists” either. Talk about “lame” rationalism!

      1. irishanglican,

        From 1 Cor. 15, I would conclude that Paul believed that the risen Christ appeared to him and other believers. I do not see anything in there to indicate that Paul had any beliefs about an itinerant preacher named Jesus. Nothing indicates that Paul knew when or where such a person lived or died or that Paul knew anything about what such a person said or did during his lifetime. Nor does the passage indicate that Paul knew anyone who had had personal contact with such a person.

      2. Regarding Vinny’s comment-
        In Galatians 1:18,19 Paul mentions meeting two people, (Peter and James), who knew Jesus when Jesus was alive. So Paul obviously knew when the Lord lived his earthly life.

      3. Rich H,

        Not necessarily. Just because person X knows person Y that knows some info Z, does not mean we can conclude that person X knows information Z.

        For example. I may know George Bush, and George Bush may know some facts. A person cannot conclude that I know that facts that George Bush knows because it has been established that I know George Bush.

        What would have to be demonstrated would be that George Bush told me certain facts.

        Can you establish that Peter and James told Paul when Jesus lived?


      4. Galatians 1:19 says “I saw none of the other apostles- only James the Lord’s brother”.

        If Jesus’s brother was still alive then Jesus must have lived sometime in the previous 4 decades.

      5. Rich,

        Paul says he met Jesus’s,(the Lord’s), BROTHER. It doesn’t matter what they talked about or even if they talked at all. Assuming James is human and has a normal lifespan, it is inescapable that Jesus must have lived sometime in the prior four or so decades.

        If you think Paul didn’t write Galatians or you think it’s all bogus, that’s another topic.

      6. IA
        You only bury yourself with ignorance!


        Just shouting “myth” won’t stand real history for guys like you “mythicists” either. Talk about “lame” rationalism!

        SO misrepresentation, insults, claims that we are ‘just shouting myth’, when there are books full of analysis of Biblical texts.

        I guess IA just likes abusing and misrepresenting people. It is the Christian way.

        What he cannot do is explain why Paul writes that Jews could hardly be expected to believe in Jesus until Christians had been sent to preach about him, as otherwise they would not have heard of Jesus.

      7. Again, I say the burden of proof is with you “mythicists”! We are supposed to believe that St. Paul believed in some myth himself! Note 1 Cor. 15:3-19, etc. Paul believed in what he wrote that is certain!

      8. Rich H,

        If Paul intended to indicate a biological relationship with Jesus when he described James as the brother of the Lord, then it would be logical to conclude that he had some idea when Jesus lived. However, I don’t think that there is sufficient evidence to determine that this is what Paul meant.

        On the other hand, there are plenty of reasons to doubt that Paul thought anyone he knew had actually had any contact with Jesus during his earthly ministry. First off, the only contacts with Jesus that Paul mentions are post-resurrection appearances. Paul claims that what he knows about the gospel came by revelation. There is not a hint in any of Paul’s letters that his faith tradition included the recollections of people who had heard Jesus teach and watched him perform miracles. When Paul describes the Eucharistic meal in 1 Cor. 11, why did he say that he “received [it] from the Lord” if he personally knew people who had been there? How is it that in all the disputed doctrinal issues that Paul confronts, he never needs to address a dispute over the meaning or authenticity of anything Jesus said or did during his earthly ministry? When Paul argued with Peter over observance of the law in Galatians 2, why didn’t the things Jesus said and did come up? How could Paul take such a dismissive attitude towards the apostles in Jerusalem if both Paul and the Galatians to whom he was writing thought that they had spent three years being taught directly by the Messiah himself?

      9. Rick,

        Your original claim was; “Paul obviously knew when the Lord lived his earthly life.” I explained that this is not obvious. So I asked… can you demonstrate this? You than say; “If Jesus’s brother was still alive then Jesus must have lived sometime in the previous 4 decades.” This does not demonstrate that Paul new when Jesus lived.

        Your original reference to Galatians 1:18,19 is;

        “When after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days. But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.”

        This certainly does not in any way indicate that Paul had any idea of when a Jesus may have loved. In fact, it says nothing about what they talked about… it mentions simply that he met a Peter and James. So this obviously is not a demonstration that Paul knew when Jesus lived.

        The reason I ask is that Earl Doherty puts forth an idea that Paul never talked about a person Jesus, but a heavenly creature idea. And he has put forward a number of good reasons behind his thought.

        Now, as one interested in very early Christianity, I am interesting understanding the very early beginnings of Christianity as best I can. You will find it you, if you begin to study the subject, that a great deal of what has up to this point passed as “scholarship” is really crap. Much of it has incorporated the prior dogma of the Church uncritically. So one problem with the study of early Christianity is that the field has never really begun with the proper questions. For example. A Jesus character has always ASSUMED to have exited. Yet, no Jesus character has ever been demonstrated. Yet then this undemonstrated assumption has been taken as a given, and a mass of shit has been built upon this.

        On we are beginning to re-begin Christian history. We are trying to weed out the undemonstrated assumptions from things that can be demonstrate.

        So this is what prompted my question to you.

        So… can you demonstrate that Paul new when Jesus lived? If you want you might take this topic up on if this kind of thing is something that you are interested in. Or just here if you only have a passing interest in the subject.

        Also… do you have a blog or web site where you write on the topic of Christian history (or actually anything). I notice that your signature does not link to a URL. I an very interested in gathering URLs of others that are interested in the topic of early Christian history.


      10. Vinny,

        Thanks to reply without all the ad hom afoot! My point to “ignorance” was the subject and texts. Judeo-Christianity is always presuppositional to the biblical revelation! God has spoken…!

        Perhaps one the first texts taken from Paul, but written by another, i.e. Luke, would be Acts 20:35, “In everything I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak AND REMEMBER THE WORDS of the Lord Jesus, that HE HIMSELF SAID, It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

        As to 1 Cor.15, note verse 3…”what I also received”, and the verses 6 thru 9. St. Paul says he is an Apostle, like the rest, but “the least of the apostles…because I persecuted the church of God.” (verses 8-9) He claims the same Apostleship as “Cephas” and “James”. But that he “labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. Whether then it was I OR THEY, so we preach and so you believed.” (verses 10-11)


        It is never ad hom to quote the biblical text in reply, perhaps ad hoc? This has been a cluster Fxxk! lol Sorry, I am an old Royal Marine Commando – for real! Yeah, perhaps a poor priest at times, but God alone gets to judge that one, like us all! BTW, I am reading: The Historical Jesus of the Gospels, by Craig Keener. Have you ever read it?

        Steven Carr,

        As I told Vin, “your ignorance” is toward the subject here, and many poor ad hoc at best try’s in so-called answer. I have read many mythicist articles now BTW, I have not seen a “righteous” argument yet worth responding to. There are better people in the Historical Jesus material. As I have asked Neil, have any of you even read Craig Keener’s book: The Historical Jesus of the Gospels? The point is, this is not a dialogue here, just a bunch of guys (and one gal) like yourself, that are former “Christians” (in name only to my mind), that have a tough time with the historical CHURCH, and so have given up on the “historical” Jesus. This is my thought anyway!

        BTW Steph, that gal is certainly not you! But one called, “irishmythicist”.

  16. Steph claims Doherty just rehashed Wells ideas.

    Hoffman claims Doherty just rehashed Wells ideas.

    But Wells doesn’t…


    ‘ I am quite unconvinced by Doherty’s suggestion that ‘it is very possible’ that even these four evangelists ‘regarded their midrashic tale as symbolic only and its Jesus figure as not historical’.’

    That’s strange, because Doherty’s views are just Wells views rehashed. Steph has said so,so it must be true, even if Wells himself does not agree.

    But what his Wells opinion worth , with his documentation of why Doherty’s views are not rehashes of his own views, when Steph claims Hoffman did not misrepresent Doherty as rehashing Wells views?

    Wells clearly was misrepresenting his own views,as everybody who proves Steph wrong must be misrepresenting things.

  17. This morning I woke up after a very long sleep and feeling much recovered from an illness that has inflicted me much of this week. And I had a look over this thread, and Rich is right. It is a most depressing lot to read.

    Steph, you have as far as I can see simply ignored my requests for civility.

    You have ignored my earlier responses to comments that you paste here once again as if they are unassailable.

    You have ignored my point about logical fallacies.

    You have refused to apologize for accusing me of fabricating evidence when I have shown you the falsity of your charge.

    You have ignored the central points of Steven’s and my comments, and gone ballistic over peripherals. An example is your refusal to concede that Hoffmann indeed dishonestly or with culpable ignorance slandered Doherty’s work. You ignore the evidence I have posted for this.

    Rich is right, you are indeed trolling.

    And meanwhile, Joel Watts who ran at the first warning that he was basing his argument for historicity on ignorance of the evidence for the historicity of persons other than Jesus, chimes in here with a single-line insult.

    And all this after Crossley can offer nothing more substantial than a swear word in response to my critique of his work, and runs and hides when asked to point out where I had in any way misrepresented his work. (Although he did misread one reference I made to the word “report” and was well able to find the time to speak at length about that, failing to notice all the while that he was missing the original point of my remark.)

    And we do not have to repeat the insults and avoidance of James McGrath. Nor the incivility and denial of Hoffmann when I asked him to justify a point he made on his blog.

    Such is the quality of responses from mainstream scholars who are challenged on the logical fallacies and lack of evidence at the heart of historical Jesus studies in mainstream scholarship.

  18. RICK
    Paul says he met Jesus’s,(the Lord’s), BROTHER.

    No, he says he met the brother of the Lord. Paul never says he met the brother of Jesus. Lord means ‘God’ as well as Jesus. Paul knows of a group of people called ‘brothers of the Lord’.

    So it is ambiguous. It might mean the brother of Jesus, or it might not.

    Not one single Christian document in the first century claims that there was a church leader named James who had been the brother of Jesus.

    Not even the Epistles of James or Jude claim that.

  19. VINNY
    There is not a hint in any of Paul’s letters that his faith tradition included the recollections of people who had heard Jesus teach and watched him perform miracles


    Paul scoffed at Jews with their absurd demands that Christianity be religion that had miraculous signs.

    Paul explains that the big advantage the Jews had had was having the Scriptures.

    Now you might think that having the Son of God preaching to Jews, living among Jews, and working miracles among Jews was an advantage that could be mentioned along with other advantages like having the Book of Obadiah….

    But Paul would never dream of saying that Jesus had ever preached any message.

    This new righteousness had been testified to by the Law and the Prophets. Why would Paul rank Jesus among the people who had testified to this new righteousness?

    As we all know, Jesus was an obscure preacher which is why contemporaries (like Paul) never wrote much about what Jesus said and did.

  20. Hey now, it wasn’t a one line insult – just a suggestion that you upgrade toe Firefox 3.6 (although there are problems with it such as cacheing – don’t change the recommended settings.) Personally, if I wanted to take the time to learn a new browser, Chrome looks pretty good and I liked Safari a while ago too.

    Of course, you guys might not believe that there is such a thing as another browser, not really surely. Personally, I’m still not convinced that you guys existed, or that each of you aren’t really the same person. Besides, look at what you guys do to comments. If you read Steph’s original comment, she wasn’t defending anyone, nor attacking anyone. She was taking a neutral stance, acknowledging the problems of the post and offering her views. She has done this other places and yet, when she comes here, her words get twisted.

    Neilenich, you couldn’t have an honest discussion if you tried. Your anger has so seeped into your every action that it is possible for you to see past it. You hold to a mythicist viewpoint so tightly, and I suspect that you do so in order to not have to worry about you being wrong, that everyone who can dismiss your claims, you automatically attack. Is this humanism? Hardly. It is, in my opinion, ex-fundamentialist-christianism-angry-at-the-worldism-so-i-must-take-my-anger-and-frustration-and-worry-that-I-could-be-wrongism. (EFCaatwsimtmaafawticbw-ism, for short)

    Maybe one day, you will move past the local public lie-brary, into real scholarly material and understand the role of the historian and just how valuable the Gospels, especially the three dated before 70ce, really are.

    Now, upgrade to Firefox and realize that not all webpages are built for every browser. When I go looking for a theme, I generally don’t care if it includes IE6 and below.

    1. So Joel Watts demonstrates his ignorance of Bible scholarship by claiming 3 Gospels are dated to before 70 AD.

      By the way, the claim that a second gunman shot JFK is dated to within decades after the event…..

      But , of course, that was covered up, just like the authorities tried to cover up the alien landings at Roswell, and the resurrection of Jesus, and the faked moon landings.

      Everytime something extraordinary happens, people like Joel Watts will explain how the authorities of the time tried to cover it up.

  21. Wait? You mean that there wasn’t a second gunman? I bet you guys dismiss the Grassy Knoll as well… Is there even a Dallas?

    Oh my… Do any of us exist?

    You guys are just too fun!

    1. More comments from Joel revealing his inability to come up with anything to differentiate Christians from people who claim a second gunman shot JFK.

      My arguments about Paul were so compelling that he responded with silence.

      Gosh, surely a Real Bible Scholar would make mincemeat of an amateur, but Joel is reduced to pretending he never heard those arguments. (Perhaps he HAS never heard mythicist arguments. That would explain a lot)

      1. Joel is one of those fundies who come here from time to time and prove themselves viscerally incapable of reading anything on a blog like this without projecting their own fears and hates into everything that is said here. They feel their bible gives them licence to arrogantly insult, ridicule and impute the worst of motives in certain others.

        See point 2 of my notes from Tamas Pataki’s study of religious fundamentalism:

        #2: They (fundamentalists) are “generally assertive, clamorous, and often violent”.

        One might also observe #4’s reference to “their sense of superiority”.

        No doubt the rest of the points apply too, and this sort of behaviour Joel thinks is funny is the same as J.P. Holding’s and their kind on this blog a while back.

        I’m glad I have set up the blog to allow icons to be shown on the different commenters. Otherwise my fear would be that people would think I was making up the posts by Joel just to give Christianity and Christians a bad name. At least with icons they can see the posts are really not from me, but really are a genuine sample of what this type of Christianity has to offer.

  22. You can actually read a good portion of The Historical Jesus of the Gospels at Google Books.

    http://books.google.com/books?id=cnfT1YnW7ZsC (Click “Preview this book.”)

    I just skimmed the available pages in “Section III: What We Can Learn About Jesus from the Best Sources.” If I can find this title in a used book store, I might just buy it and keep it as an example of how not to do history.

    He writes, “A maximalist approach to the sources grants as evidence whatever is possible; a mediating approach looks for whatever is most probable historically.” He then ridicules minimalism, which is to be expected. Then having staked out his Goldilocks territory (not too hot, not too cold, but ju-u-u-ust right), he admits all evidence. That is, he poses as a rational moderate but he’s a maximalist at heart.

    For Keener, any deed or saying recorded in the gospels can be construed as plausible. Is an apothegm similar to what a sage or teacher would say? Then it coheres with the environment of Jesus’ time, and it’s plausible. Is it unlike anything we would expect from a sage or teacher? Then it is an example of the criterion of dissimilarity. The disciples of Jesus wouldn’t have made it up. Therefore it’s plausible.

    Once the saying or deed is established as plausible, Keener implicitly promotes it to “historically likely.” And in future references, he will call it a virtually certain fact.

    Keener has constructed a strainer that strains nothing. Perhaps you have the book handy and can tell me, but I could find no example in the online excerpt: Is there anything that Keener examined and did not accept as historically plausible (ergo “established fact”)? I would submit that if one’s historical criteria admit all evidence as plausible (promoted to likely –> highly probable –> fact!), then they aren’t all that useful. You might as well just read the NT and believe it, and that’s OK for a believer, but we shouldn’t equate the practice of faith with the practice of history.

    BTW, it’s true that I’m a former Christian, but “No True Irishman” would hold that against me.

    1. tim…

      I hold nothing against you, but then I am just one Irishman, and fallible at that!

      Nice try, but your gonna have to read Keener’s whole book! One of the problems with so many is spot reading etc. To really research something, one must read the whole, just like the whole of Scripture! No spot “revelation” of God there!

      I wonder what we will all find “plausable” in death & dying? Remember I am an active priest & pastor. This is in the end, no academic game, that is for certain. Even Voltaire was a deist. Though his satire did little to comfort him in his death & dying. It has been rare for me to see someone die in complete atheism, and not good for them either. Just a point of experience. And I have found that “experience” to be profound! From combat (R. Marine, and not a chaplain either) to the bedside as such.

      And yes in the end, “history” will stare us in the face, the once “historical”, but prophetic Jesus! (Rev.1:7)

      1. No, Irishman, you are avoiding the point. This is a Steph-like escape: “I can’t rebut what you say so you have to wait for or read a whole book.”

        It is quite valid to critique a book because of such key methodological claims it makes. Complaining that such critiques do not address something like every page of the book is fallacious.

        Address the arguments in the posts and comments and stop making a bloody nuisance of yourself with your soapbox preachy ways.

      2. Perhaps I was being too subtle in my previous post.

        1. My “No True Irishman” (as in No True Scotsman) comment referred back to your statement that you that the former Christians here were so “in name only.” That’s uncalled for.

        2. If Keener were actually providing new scholarship, I would “read the whole,” no matter what his slant is. But The Historical Jesus of the Gospels is a secondary work, a collection of current apologia for the general public.

        3. It’s a lovely thing, your unflagging faith and all that. I hope it continues to give you comfort for as long as you need it. However, my interest is in history, and it irritates me when apologists cross the line and start pretending that the evidence proves more that it does. This is history done badly, and it bothers me greatly.

        4. My question remains unanswered. Is there anything that Keener examines in the gospels that his criteria reject as historical? How about Jesus in John’s gospel making puns in Greek? Anything? No? Because, as I said, if his tools accept everything as plausible, then they’re superfluous. Just accept it all as received Truth and close up shop. There’s no longer any need to pretend we’re doing history.

    2. Neil,

      This has been a mess of a blog run, no direction from you, no real dialogue, but it is “your” blog, etc. And you DO need to hear some “biblical preaching”! As Steph has said,”minds are like parachutes, they only work when opened, you might lead a fool to wisdom, but you can’t make him think”.Save for Vinny and perhaps Tim somewhat, this has been a worthless time. I will leave you, and your “mythicists”.

    3. Keener’s book is invaluable and records how archaeologists have found a way that large animals were brought into the Temple.

      So the Gospels must be historical.

  23. But I will quote a quote from Schweitzer from Keener’s book: “Those who are fond of talking about negative theology can find their account here. There is nothing more negative than the result of the critical study of the Life of Jesus.”

  24. I am relived that Joel & Irishanglican will no longer be posting here.

    This comment;

    “And you DO need to hear some “biblical preaching”!”

    I think shows a misunderstand of what Neil’s blog is focused on.

    My understanding is that Neil approaches the subject in a historical fashion, not a supernaturalistic one. If folks thin they should be coming here to add supernaturalistic preaching, I think that will make it more difficult for those that are here to discuss the subject on a historical basis. Since, people seem to feel the need to address supernaturalistic comments when they are made, and then that simply leads the discussion away from the more productive blog focused stuff. It is too easy to want to latch onto supernaturalistic stuff. I have always found this to be a problem on blogs that attempt to focus on the subject matter of a historical looking into of the subject. I would recommend that Neil also put’s Irishanglican on spam so that if he is tempted to continue even after he has expressed his intention to discontinue his participation it will not distract the rest of the group.

    There are plenty of blogs and sites that encourage supernaturalistic discussion. I am happy to have found one that mostly addresses the topic in a historical fashion. It is hard for people that are interested in the topic in a historical fashion to find forums where this is done. I appreciate Neil’s work, and with to encourage him to continue.


  25. It is nonsense to imply that this is just Jim West having a humorous dig in order to provoke a response. The idea that the bible belongs exclusively to believers and can only be truly interpreted by such was a common theme of his blog (when I used to bother to read it last year) as were the constant attacks on atheists.

    Typical West silliness. I am surprised that they publish it on http://www.bibleinterp.com though and that it is taken at all seriously.

    BTW. Deane Galbraith’s response is worth reading, IMO.

    1. I wonder if this is the sort of article that could “only be written in America”. I understand other countries have legal bodies or systems to ensure quality of education through recognition of insitutions that meet minimum standards. The value and necessity of these is obvious.

      The cult to which I once belonged ran college campuses and sought for many years to gain accreditation. It eventually did so, but only after introducing courses that were not tailored to support cult doctrine, and also hiring academics to teach who were not themselves cult members. It also led to its own cult member teaching faculty attending other universities to gain non-cult qualifications. The end result, over time, was to breed church members and leaders who increasingly questioned cult doctrine, and eventually the cult disintegrated as a monolithic institution.

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